What will happen to God's people in the end time? It is important to compare the rapture theory to what Christ says will happen in the time of the end.
There is a very popular teaching in the Christian world called the rapture. It has to do with the removal — or a time when true believers will be caught up — from the earth and taken to a place, namely heaven — that's the way it reads and the way it's understood — somewhere off the earth while the earth goes through the tribulation and the terrible events at the end of the age.
Now a lot of people do believe in the end of the age, but let me also tell you that a lot of people do not believe that there is going to be an end of the age. In orthodox Christian circles many people believe that the world just simply keeps going. And what you read in the book of Revelation in terms of all of the things that are going to occur — in terms of a millennium that's going to take place; in terms of Jesus Christ returning — they believe it is more metaphorical or figurative. They do not take it to be literal. Now a lot of people do take it quite literally. However amongst that type of belief is the idea that Jesus is going to, in the process of the end time, He is going to make a swoop down toward the earth and 'catch up', as it were, His true people and remove them from the earth that is about to be in turmoil because of the great, natural cataclysmic events that will take place in the world and to help them to escape from a world that will be ruled by what is called the Beast.
All right, you have probably heard of all of this, but perhaps it's hard to put it all together. Now, in that regard, we do the best we can for our readers in one of our booklets which you can pick up over there called 'The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last' in which we put it in an order which you can understand how those events are going to take place, why those events are going to take place, and the order in which those events are going to take place that we read about in the book of Revelation.
Now, about the doctrine of the rapture, this was a teaching that came about in the 19th century by a theologian by the name of John Darby. There were a few others who did have a few similar ideas before, but he tried to combat the idea that orthodox Christianity at the time held, that there was not going to be a thousand year period that would bring in the kingdom of God. Of course, there are a lot of ideas on that as to what that thousand-year period actually is. Now he tried to deal with that and to show that that is quite literal and should be understood as such. However, in the process he developed another teaching. He developed the teaching of the rapture in which he postulated that Christians right at the very end time prior to the return of Jesus Christ would be raptured or taken away.
Now over the past two centuries you have had people who have felt that that would happen and, to some extent, have gone up on a mountain — this has happened more than once — and have set dates and said Jesus Christ is going to return and take us away. And, lo and behold, they come back from the mountain not having been taken away simply because that's not what Christ is going to do as we are going to see. And that's why I entitled the message today, 'The Rapture is a Hoax', because it is.
Now, it goes further than that. There is a whole series of books that have been written by one of the more popular Christian leaders today and he really turns out books and even a movie was made about this called Left Behind. You have heard of this. Okay. It's out there. It's very, very popular in evangelical circles. It is a fictional story, however it is based upon this particular teaching. It is a series of novels that were written — that have made this particular person quite a bit of money — about those who were not raptured away, but those who were left behind and who are involved in the intrigue of fighting the evil empire of the beast. And, of course, you can imagine how many stories are made from that. A lot of money is made in Christian circles playing on this particular popular teaching. Now the problem, of course, is that the idea of the rapture is not true. It is assumed as a teaching of the Bible; however, people have placed their faith in the teaching.
Today I am going to tell you briefly about it. The reason I am going to talk briefly about it only and not in the entire message today, is because there is a bigger picture here that we need to take a look at and that is what will happen to God's people in the end time? In other words, what will really happen? That's a big question and should be a big question. And if you believe, if you understand that the events of the Bible as they are prophesied first by Christ, and secondly by the apostle John in the revelation that Christ gave John, to tell us the events 'that are going to shortly come to pass' (that's the way He put it) and then what the prophets of the Old Testament themselves actually taught — if you understand these to mean that there is going to come a time in man's history that is going to culminate with those events, there is a question that lurks in the minds of those who understand that to be so. And the question is, well, what's going to happen to those people who truly believe God? Does the Bible in any sense provide any kind of assurances as to what will happen? I'm telling you the Bible does say that, but it certainly does not say that you are going to be raptured off to heaven. In fact, nobody is going to heaven and we make that, of course, quite clear. Nobody has gone to heaven except Jesus Christ. He is the only one who has ever been resurrected, has gone to heaven and those who 'have been raptured' certainly will not be going to heaven either. But is there any kind of protection for the people of God during this very trying period? I am going to take a look at the very clear teaching about the end time events. And we need to explain this period, which is in the very near future, to understand not only what is going to happen but, of course, why it is going to happen. It gives us a much better understanding, then, of how things will come about. Christ was very clear on this, however people tend to mix things up.
Christ Himself prophesied about the end of the age. He said He would come again and He would establish His kingdom on this earth. He says that because of His direct intervention that the human race is going to be kept alive. Jesus addressed the period of time that you and I live in today. I want to start with Matthew:24:1-3. I've got the first two verses here that say,
Mat:24:1 — Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.
Now they were very proud of the temple. It was a very impressive structure.
Verse 2 — And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Now that's quite a statement. Nobody would ever believe that would have happen.
Verse 3 — Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately... wanting an explanation. Well, what does He mean? So they said, ...Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Now that's an extraordinary question in that they did began to understand the He is going to come back — they didn't understand exactly how He is going to come back. He did have to explain to them somewhat later that He is going to come back and many of His parables spoke about the kingdom of God and the time in which He would come back and then, of course, the end of the age. They began to understand that the age in which they lived — where their nation, Judah, was being ruled by the Romans — would come to an end. I don't know if they fully understood that He was speaking about not just their nation, but He was speaking about the entirety of the world. So Jesus begins to talk about the conditions that lead to the end of this age and His coming. And what He is saying here is this: that there is going to come a time when this world — the world as we know it with its civilizations, with its governments, with its social order — is going to come to an end.
Now this is the age in which we live. The apostle Paul calls the age in which we live 'this present evil age'. Just an aside, Galatians:1:4 — I don't have that as a scripture, but that's how He calls it. It is a present evil age. This is not God's age. God does not rule the world now. And it's going to be replaced by another age, a world ruled by Jesus Christ. It will be the age of the kingdom of God in which the government of God is to rule this earth.
But at the end of this age, the age in which we live, there will be events that will signal that this age will come to an end. And that's what Jesus began to talk about in the great prophesy of Matthew 24. Jesus Christ was the greatest prophet of all of them and He prophesied about what would happen to the entire human race. It was so far reaching; it had so much scope in it and it embraced the entirety of the world. And so whenever we deal with prophesies, we have to deal with what's going to happen to the world. That's how Jesus Christ dealt with it. Many of the prophets of the Old Testament prophesied specifically about the nation of Israel and about the nation of Judah. Now they also did speak about what would happen to the entirety of the world at times and Jesus Christ then referred to some of those prophesies, but when Jesus Christ Himself came, He was talking about the events that will happen to the entirety of the world. That was His scope. And so when you take these prophesies then, He is not talking about what will happen to Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
You talk to some theologians and they will tell you that Matthew 24 is speaking primarily about 70 A. D. and what happened to Jerusalem when the Romans came in and finally conquered the Jews once again and destroyed that temple and that all of that refers to that time and everything else surrounding that — about His coming and signs in heaven, etc. is figurative. This is how it is looked upon, in large measure, by the Christian community. Now I simply want to mention that. A lot of them don't, but I will say that a lot of them do. But it's very clear, then, that when Jesus prophesied He prophesied about the events that will affect the entirety of the world. He took a global view of things. And then in the last years of the apostle John, He gave the apostle John — in, let's say, a complete and total vision from start to finish — everything that would occur at the end of the age. And it is revealed to us in considerable detail what will take place at the end of the age. I'll just give you a little hint. You have to tie Matthew 24 in with Revelation. You can't look at them separately. And this, then, tells you how it's all going to come about. You cannot understand the book of Revelation without understanding Matthew 24 where we find the greatest single prophesy we have, given by Jesus Christ Himself.
Now I want you to notice what Jesus Himself said about the conditions at the end of the age. I want to skip down to verse 21 where He says this in verses 21 and 22 because it dates this prophesy.
Mat:24:21 — For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Now this is quite amazing. This is not 70 A.D. It's impossible.
Verse 22 — And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.
There's quite a bit in this particular sentence, but the most striking thing about this statement is that this is the condition of the world where no human being would be left alive unless — unless those days were shortened. This dates this prophecy right here. This is not a prophesy of 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. This has to do with the questions that Jesus, Himself, is answering: what is the sign of your coming and the end of the age? And that is the question He is answering and He then describes the condition — a very serious condition where it is a situation in which people simply will not live. No flesh. Human beings will die. This is a time when there is the condition where it is possible to eliminate the human race altogether. He could prophesy this because of who He was. He could look down through the future and say this can happen and will happen if not for one thing — for one thing — the days will be shortened. It will not be allowed to go that far. Now that's the good news. It's not going to be allowed to go that far. Jesus Christ is going to step in. He is not going to allow man to destroy himself.
We have to ask the question, is this possibility now? I think we know that it is. We have the ability through nuclear warfare. We've had this for decades now. We've had the ability through nuclear warfare to create a condition that humanity cannot exist. Even a limited nuclear warfare once it goes, it then builds. I'm not talking about further nuclear reaction, but you have results from that. You have climate change in such a way after even a limited nuclear war. That's why they don't want to get into this because it is going to have such far-reaching effect that it could, then, destroy all of mankind not by the nuclear explosions themselves, but by the aftermath of what takes place either through radiation or through all the change and the whole system of things as a result of this. They have had scenarios on this; they have had movies on it; they have had documentaries. We used to see these. Do you know when we used to see them? Back in the cold war. After the cold war, we don't see them very much anymore. Considering the events that have taken place here in the last few months, we may start to see them again because Russia still has its missiles. So does the United States. So do a number of other nations and they are still armed — oh, greatly reduced, but it doesn't take a lot.
Now here we have a condition in which this can happen. I don't even have to discuss any other method. This is good enough. We are living in this time now. The condition exists where Jesus Christ has to intervene in our affairs in a powerful way.
The Bible speaks, then, of tribulation. Tribulation simply means what? It means suffering. That is what it means. Suffering — enormous, enormous suffering in such a way that has never happened before. And He says it is not going to happen again. That time is yet in the future. It is in, very likely, our future. That's how close we are to this.
There is the period the Bible speaks of called the day of the Lord. Now let me explain that. You have tribulation, which means intense suffering, but the Bible speaks of the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is this: the day of the Lord is the day in which the Lord Himself has to step in and intervene. And you are going to have a lot of other things begin to happen. It won't all clear up then, but at least He will have stepped in and He is going to make Himself known with events called the trumpets. Now you heard me mentioned that we observe the Feast of Trumpets here — we are going to be observing the Feast of Trumpets in a little over two weeks. What's going to happen? These are the Holy Days of God that picture some great and momentous events. God does not say to celebrate or to observe things such as Christmas and Easter Of course we don't do that. But we do observe the Holy Days and one of the Holy Days, which is the Feast of Trumpets — the Jews call it Rosh Hashanah, which is normally understood to be the Jewish New Year. It is the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. However, here is a day, it is an annual day, which is to be observed once a year, and these days were to be observed forever. And it pictures a time when God Himself will step in. He will intervene in the affairs of man and this is when things are going to change. This is when man is going to be safe. This is also when governments of this world who will attempt to resist Christ are going to be put down. This is when Jesus Christ will set up His government here on this earth. This is all a part of the day of the Lord.
Now this message today is going to answer the question, specifically what happens to God's people at the end of the age? I didn't want you to think I got off the subject. I simply had to set the scene. And that's all for you before we get into the subject, for the simple reason that we have to understand why, then, that God's people will need help. They will need protection during that time and it is going to be a time of tribulation. It is going to be a time of great upheaval. You think we have climate change now? You wait until that comes! The book of Revelation speaks of such things as that.
Now, as we said, the popular idea is this: that Christ will secretly take away, catch up or seize or rapture, as it were, His people to heaven for a period of time until the time of suffering is over. And then He will bring them back to this earth in some way. Now let me just say that there is no such thing like this that the Bible speaks about. There is one particular scripture that I want to go to that the rapture is based upon and then there are others, of course, that are brought into it. I want you to understand what this particular passage means — the next one that we are going to look at — and when you really understand what it means, it has no basis for belief in a rapture. 1 Thes:4:13-18, this is, as I am going to show you, clearly about the resurrection of the dead.
1 Thes:4:13 — But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
Now, what is he talking about? People who have fallen asleep according to Bible language are people who have died. That's it. That's how they speak of it. A person has fallen asleep one day to be awakened by the trump of God and resurrected. Why is Paul telling these people this? Well, it is because there have been people within their congregation who, since Paul preached the Gospel to them, have been established as a congregation and they were looking for Jesus Christ to return. Now they didn't know when Jesus Christ was going to return. A lot of them assumed Jesus Christ would return in their day, in their time, that it would be soon. They didn't realize that another 1900 years — 2000 years — would elapse before Jesus Christ would return. They didn't know that then. They assumed it would happen then. Now, he has to tell them. He said, now here are some who have fallen asleep. He said, now I don't want you to be concerned about that, that you sorrow as others who have no hope. There is hope.
For if we believe... verse 14, a little bit of a clue here in verse 14 as to what he is really saying ...that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
Now if Jesus died and rose again — we are talking about a resurrection from the dead. That's the reference point here. Christ died and rose again.
For this we say... verse 15 ...to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
Wow! So what's he saying here? He is really saying that when the Lord comes there will be those who are alive. True, there will be those who have died and they are in the graves. Jesus spoke of the fact that the graves one day will be opened and some will be resurrected to the resurrection of life. However, Paul now is including one further idea, the idea that there will be people who will be alive at the time when Jesus Christ returns. Now let's notice:
For... verse 16 ...the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God... This is not a swoop down to pick up people who are alive and remain. That is not what this is. He is going to descend from heaven in this manner. This is the way it is always described that Jesus Christ is going to return. He is going to return at the sound of the trumpet as we are going to see. ...And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Verse 17 — Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together... notice ...together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air... Now there is a big question about that and I am going to explain it to you in just a minute. Why are those who are resurrected from the dead, why are those who are remaining alive on the earth, why whenever they are resurrected do they meet the Lord in the air? Do you know what people assume? That's when they go to heaven. Folks, we are not going to heaven. We are going to be on the earth. The meek shall inherit the earth (Mat:5:5) we are told, and Jesus Christ spoke of — time and time again — that He is going to come back to this earth. Here is where He is going to set up His kingdom. And He says, “Where I am that's where you are going to be." He's on His way down. He's returning. He's coming back. He performs a resurrection from the dead. Those who are alive and remain, what happens? They are changed. They are changed. I'll read that to you in just a moment. ...And thus we shall always be with the Lord. I will show you where the Lord is in just a moment.
Verse 18 — Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Why would you comfort one another with words about a rapture and being taken away from heaven? They are comforting one another because they have lost their loved ones. They have died. We read this at funerals to say that we are to be comforted by the fact that even though we have lost our loved ones, we are going to see them again. We are going to see them in a different time, in a different world. He is going to perform a resurrection from the dead.
This scripture, then, is the main passage, which is used by the adherents of the rapture who say that when Jesus will come He will come to those who are alive and remain and will catch them up. That's it. That's the passage. I mean, that's where they get the meaning. That's all there is. I think you can see there's a lot more to it than that and it's very weak, indeed, because we are talking about a resurrection from the dead, those who are asleep.
1 Corinthians:15:50-53 I think the last time we were here I pointed this to you to show that you and I enter the kingdom of God not as flesh and blood, but he says this:
1 Cor:15:50 — Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
Verse 51— Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep... uses the same word, sleep, ...but we shall all be changed—
Now Paul speaks here of a bodily resurrection. The body that we had, he speaks of it — as it were — the graves being opened and we'll be given a spirit body. Just like Jesus Christ was resurrected out of the tomb, that was a bodily resurrection. The body was not left there and the spirit, then, appeared. That's not what happened. The body itself changed — let me make this very clear for you — it is a bodily resurrection. The body itself was changed from that which was being corrupted and now was changed to spirit. And when they saw Jesus Christ — that is the disciples saw Jesus Christ as He appeared to them after the resurrection — then that was a spirit body. Now He could appear as physical. They could even touch Him if He so chose, but that's the capacity a spirit being will have, to be able to do that. But I want to make it very clear here, we are talking about a bodily resurrection. We are not talking about the uniting of the body and the spirit that has already gone to heaven as an immortal soul. No such thing — it is a pagan doctrine. Please, if you don't have a full knowledge of that, you need to get our booklet on Heaven and Hell in which we explain that there is no such thing as the immortal soul in the Bible. It is simply not there. We are a soul. That's what the Bible says.
Now when is this going to happen? Verse 52 — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet... notice ...For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Verse 53 — For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
He is talking about a resurrection in which we are changed from the physical if you are alive at the time of Jesus' return or if a person has died then they are then resurrected from the dead and given a spirit or an eternal body. This is when we enter the kingdom of God. This is when He brings the kingdom of God to the earth when He comes, when He descends from heaven at the time of His return. Those who are going to be resurrected — if they are alive at that time — are those who have experienced an authentic conversion. They have made their choices. They have turned to God. They live faithfully even in spite of temptation and trials and their sins have been forgiven, and they have received the gift of God's Spirit — God's Spirit which gives to them the mind of Christ. And God knows who they are, as we are going to see, and these are the ones who are going to be resurrected at His return.
Now in Matthew:24:30 — let's go there — Jesus is saying exactly the same thing in answering the question in Matthew 24.
Mat:24:30 — Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
So this is not going to be something done in secret. It is not going to be something done in such a way where nobody knows about it. People will know about it because, first of all, of the events that are leading up to it and secondly, this event here. They are going to see this.
Verse 31 — And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet... Where do you think Paul got this from? He didn't make it up about the last trumpet. He got this from the very words of Christ, Himself, who said this is when it is going to happen, with the sound of a great trumpet. ...and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
What elect? Who are we talking about? The same elect that we read about back in verse 21 and 22 — remember? The same elect who are alive at the time of the tribulation just before Jesus returns. He says, remember, for the elect's sake the time will be short. What elect? The elect who are alive at the time. So some of God's people — while down through the ages they may have died and gone to their graves — they will be in the resurrection of the dead. There are those who will still be alive — the elect. It is for their sake you are going to have the days shortened. All right. He is going to step in and these people will also be resurrected. He says He will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Why is He going to do that? Because that's exactly where they are. They are under the clouds. The Bible speaks of heaven simply like the atmosphere, the clouds, and we are under them. It speaks of heaven in different ways, but that's one of the ways it speaks of heaven right here. And so He is not talking about people in outer space, by the way. Forget about that. He's talking about people who live on this earth wherever they may be.
Now it doesn't answer the question — and here is a big thing that people say — 'Well why are we going to meet Christ in the air?' Well, if He has in mind that He is going to go some place very, very specific and the elect will have to be gathered from everywhere — well, they have to be gathered. And a very good place for them to meet would be in the clouds. This is not hard. That's where they are going to meet. Once they meet in the clouds, where are they going to go? Know what's normally said? 'Up to heaven.' Sorry, folks, this is not in the Bible. It is simply not there. Let's notice Zechariah:14:4.
Zech:14:4 — In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east... a little bit of a geography lesson here. It is very specific. ...And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.
Here is Zechariah, an Old Testament prophet, talking about that day in which the Lord's feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. Why do they have to meet Him in the air? Well, let me just say it is only polite to meet someone when they are coming to see you, if you don't mind me saying that. But that's not the main reason. The main reason is that when they are gathered from everywhere from under heaven, they have to meet there because He is on His way to one specific spot. And so when He comes to this earth, He is going to come to this place here, the Mount of Olives. We find in the book of Revelation He is pictured with the firstfruits of God on the Mount of Zion. That's where He is because that is where He has come to. Here is where He is going to set up His kingdom right on this earth.
Now, here's the question. Let's deal with this question and I don't know how fast I can deal with it, but I will do the best I can for you. How are the elect going to be able to exist during the time of the tribulation, during the time of great suffering? How is that going to happen until Jesus returns? Remember, He says there will be those alive who are His elect when He returns. Prior to that there is going to be a great deal of suffering involved. Well, what about the elect? What is going to happen to them? Does the Bible give any kind of assurances for this time? I want to show you some that may not be very clear — people may not look at it this way, but you will find them back in the Old Testament — some of them. Let's notice. Zephaniah:1:14-15, 18.
Zeph. 1:14 — The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly... What is that day of the Lord? That's the end time. ...The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out.
Verse 15 — That day is a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Now verse 18 — Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD's wrath... A person will want deliverance, but he is saying here nobody is exempt. ...the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy, For He will make speedy riddance Of all those who dwell in the land.
Now, chapter 2:1-3. Notice what it says.
Zeph. 2:1 — Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation,
Verse 2 — Before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, Before the LORD's fierce anger comes upon you, Before the day of the LORD's anger comes upon you!
Verse 3 — Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD's anger.
Okay, here we are. Here is the day of the Lord's wrath and judgment and He is saying to individual people, it may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger. Now He is causing His prophets to give these kinds of warnings. They ought to be believed, not just glossed over saying, well, maybe it will happen and maybe it won't happen or it's already happened or something like that. He is causing us to understand that.
Let's go to another one. The book of Nahum, chapter 1:5-7. I'll only quote the first two verses to simply show you the context. The Minor Prophets — you may not even recognize the word, Nahum, okay? But these are what are called the twelve Minor Prophets. They are small. They are short books and a lot of what is written in them has to do with the nations of Israel and Judah, but you will find in here that it has a global understanding of prophecy and Jesus Christ, Himself, inspired these prophesies to be written by these ancient prophets. So it is speaking about:
Nah:1:5 — The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves at His presence, Yes, the world and all who dwell in it.
Verse 6 —Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.
Verse 7 — The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.
We have indications that God is going to be a stronghold for those who are prepared to trust in Him.
Let's go on to Joel. Now the book of Joel, as any Biblical scholar will tell you, is about the day of the Lord. He says you really need to know about this.
Joel:2:30— I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
Verse 31 —The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
Where do you read this? Where else do you read this? You read this in Matthew 24. You read this in Revelation 6. Here are statements coming right out of the book of Joel, right out of the Old Testament into the New Testament prophesies. They are the same prophesies all the way through.
Verse 32 — And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved... Now Paul quotes this in terms of a spiritual salvation. When this is said in the Old Testament — we're talking about a physical saving or a deliverance — let's notice and this is how we are applying it at this point ...whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance... What is he talking about? That's where Jesus Christ is setting up His government and His authority on this earth, Mount Zion in Jerusalem. There is going to be deliverance from Him. ...As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. So we have deliverance here in the sense of being saved alive.
Let me read to you Joel:2:12-13 Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."
Verse 13 — So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.
God is prepared to save people — either individuals or nations who will turn to Him in this time. He is ready to step in. He is ready to intervene and save the person, the individual or the nation who will turn to Him in sincere and genuine repentance. That's what He says He will do.
Let's go to the book of Revelation. What do we read here?
Rev:9:4 — They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads.
What do we mean by that? It means there are people who are sealed.
2 Tim:2:19 — let me quote it for you ...“The Lord knows those who are His"... ..."Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
God knows those who trust Him. And the seal of God is on the foreheads. He knows those who are His. They have His seal. And this is in the context of what we call the fifth trumpet, the Beast that is going to come out of the bottomless pit and begin to make warfare over all the peoples of the earth, it says, and they are not permitted then, according to this scripture here, they are not permitted to harm those who have the seal of God in their foreheads. These are not people who are taken off to heaven. These are people who live, who are there, who are on the earth. They are being protected by God's command. However you will find that there is a great deal of harm being done to men in general in that context. Now that's another story and a little bit difficult to get into now, which I won't. I want to cover this scripture here. A lot of people look to this scripture, but here is a very specific reference to the protection God will provide for His people. People say, well you are getting into a bit of danger whenever you read that. But look, this is what the Bible says. It is very clear.
Rev:12:13 — Now when the dragon... who is the dragon? It is the devil, Satan. ...Saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman... Who is the woman? The woman in Bible symbolism, especially in the book of Revelation and other places also, is the Church ...who gave birth to the male Child.
Verse 14 — But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time, times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
What serpent? The dragon? The serpent. Who is the dragon? The devil. That's in the same chapter, by the way. It defines it for us. Time, times and half a time'. How long is that? Three and one half years in the prophetical language of the Bible. Time equals one; times is two — that's three; then half a time 'from the presence of the serpent.' That is where the serpent or the devil has a dominion where he controls people, he controls nations and he is able to cause those nations, peoples, governments to do harm to other people. Only the woman, the Church, has to be taken from his face, as it says in another translation, meaning the presence.
Verse 15 — So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.
So you find God's supernatural protection here.
Verse 16 — But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
That can be interpreted in a number of ways. But we do see this: that the woman, the Church, now is being provided for in the sense of being protected by what the devil wants to do. The devil is angry. We read that. He is cast out. He is not allowed in heaven anymore so he makes one final attempt and then he focuses his efforts to destroy the woman, the Church.
Verse 17 — And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
What's the testimony of Jesus Christ? Very simple. Revelation:1:2, He said this is the testimony of Jesus Christ. What? The book of Revelation. You understand the book of Revelation. You have been given His testimony as to what is going to happen. It says God's people will understand that testimony. They will understand the book of Revelation at that time. What you are reading right now, the book of Revelation, is His testimony. And He gave that testimony to the apostle John to record what is going to happen.
Now, the point is clear here. You may not understand everything about this, because it is speaking in such figurative language, but I'll tell you what comes through that is very clear in spite of the figurative language. It is this: God will afford protection for His people. That is what He is saying. He is not going to take them off the earth in a rapture. They have to stay here like everybody else, but with a difference that God will provide protection for them. Now that's what He says. He is not removing them. Simply He will provide that protection. There is a promise that the Church, the body of Christ will have to be taken to a place — it's called wilderness — that's not heaven — from the face of the serpent. That's how the Church is spoken of here: a recognizable Church, a Church that has to collectively rely on God to move it out of harm's way. It doesn't say heaven. It doesn't say raptured. It says wilderness. Hardly heaven is it, away from the face of the serpent.
It does say 'on the wings of an eagle' and let me explain that. A lot of people say, well that means we are going to catch a plane — it doesn't mean that. It is just figurative language because God said to the Israelites when they came out of Egypt, “I bore you on eagles wings'. Do you know what that means? It means, “I got you there safely'. That's all. That's all it means. Don't read anything more into that. You let the Bible interpret the Bible.
Now it's very obvious, then, at this point in the prophecy of the future that God's people cannot live or even stay alive in a world that very probably, itself, will be controlled by a super government and that super government is not going to be the United States or Great Britton. You can forget that. It is not going to happen. That's why the freedom of religion will be gone. That's why the right to express yourself will not be there. The freedom of speech that we have and the ability for you to live by your own beliefs will no longer exist. If you are going to live and survive, you have to agree to be subject to the great Gentile powers that will soon dominate the world. There will be no freedom of religion except for the one approved by the State. That's the nature of the beast — no pun intended. But that's simply the way it is. It is going to take faith to live in the times ahead. A person will do well to turn to God in obedience and do His commandments.
You see, prophecy is given — it's not for you to try to guess the day or the hour. Can I make that clear? If we start going down that road you are really going to be misled. Prophecy is given to God's people so that we can prepare for the future, so we can know what is going to happen. And I don't mean that you prepare for the future by digging a bunker in your back yard. You don't prepare for the future by storing up all kinds of food. I'm not against storing up food because there are some calamities sometimes that may occur. When we had the cyclone come through, you'd want a little bit. Okay. But that's not how you prepare for the future. You prepare by turning to Him before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. You place yourself in God's hands for deliverance. You turn to God in obedience and begin to change your life and begin to believe Him. And what you wait for is the resurrection to immortality at the last trumpet. That's the hope He holds out to all Christians. And that's going to happen when Jesus Christ returns to this earth.
Now when Jesus gives His prophecy in Matthew 24 and He talks about the tribulation that is yet to come on this earth as never before. A major part of that prophecy has one message in it for those who would read this. Therefore be you also ready... That's it. That's the way Luke expresses it. Matthew says Therefore you also be ready... (Mat:24:44) for the son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. But you can know when it is drawing near.
Verse 33 — of the same prophecy, Matthew 24 — So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!
He has given enough information for what? So you can prepare spiritually, changing your life, turning to Him so that you can fulfill His purpose.
Ladies and gentlemen, we live in the days when these prophecies are going to be fulfilled. It is going to happen just like He says. We are given a chance to know, to understand what those prophesies are and that there are some things that you and I can do about it.
Well, thank you very much for coming today. Once again you have been very kind and very patient. Thank you very much. I hope it has been helpful for you and we hope to see you again before long.