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A recent series of text messages from a family member asking me about the rapture – an event in which God would suddenly snatch away into the clouds all Christians from earth before the end-time atrocities of the Antichrist – led me to reexamine what the Bible teaches about the subject.

The idea of the rapture was first introduced by Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather in the 1700s, followed by theologian John Darby in the 1800s, then popularized in the 1970s by Hal Lindsey in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their Left Behind series of books in the 1990s. It is also a doctrine by some evangelical preachers and denominations based on their interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, but also of Matthew 24:27-31; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; and Revelation 20:4. (Wikipedia)

According to their interpretation of these passages, Christians will be snatched away to be with Christ in heaven before the tribulation happens, leaving behind unbelievers to suffer under the worldwide tyrannical and destructive rule of the Antichrist for seven years. Christ will then return to punish the Antichrist and his followers, and rule the earth for a thousand years, before pronouncing final judgment on all who have ever lived. This is known as the pretribulation rapture or premillennialism (before the one thousand years of Christ’s rule).

Besides pretribulation rapture, there are variations of beliefs on when the rapture will occur – midtribulation, prewrath tribulation, partial tribulation (all three happening during the tribulation), and post tribulation in which the rapture occurs at the second coming of Christ. (Wikipedia)

But 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 shows that the apostle Paul was writing about the resurrection of the Christian dead at Christ’s second coming (the first coming being his birth in Bethlehem). The Thessalonian Christians were worried about what would happen to their fellow believers who had already died before the return of Christ, so Paul assured them that:

“We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.” (1 Thess. 4:15-17, NLT)

I’ve highlighted key phrases that are important in comparing the other scripture passages with the above Thessalonian passage. For example, the phrase “caught up” in verse 17 was translated in the Latin manuscript as rapiemur, derived from raptus and raptura (a kidnapping, a carrying off, taken away). This Latin translation came from harpagisometha (caught up or taken away) used in the Greek version of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, while a shortened form, harpazo, is also used in Acts 8:39, 2 Cor. 12:2-4, and Rev. 12:5. (Wikipedia)

The Matthew 24:27-31 passage lists some of those same phrases and gives us a specific time when Christ will return – after the tribulation.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24:29-31, ESV)

So, along with Matthew specifying the time of Jesus’ second coming as happening immediately after the tribulations, the similarities in these two passages include:

• The Lord or Son of Man returning from heaven or coming down in clouds from heaven

• His arrival will be announced with loud trumpet sounds from his archangel and angels

• He will gather his elect – Christians both living and dead, with the dead raised first – and take them up into the clouds

These similarities are also seen in the 1 Corinthian 15 passage which adds one key phrase – the last trumpet:

“ But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.” (1 Cor. 15: 51-53, NLT)

The last trumpet is important because it links all three passages and their trumpet references to Revelation 11:15 (in which the seventh and last trumpet will announce the second coming of Jesus Christ) and Revelation 20:4 in which Christ resurrects the Christians martyred during the tribulation, and reigns with them (and the rest of his elect) for a thousand years.

So, these passages from I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 11 and 20 are unified in showing:

• Christ’s return occurring immediately after the tribulation

• He will come down in clouds from heaven

• His arrival will be announced with a seventh and last trumpet blast from his archangel and angels

• He will gather his elect – Christians both living and dead – and take them up into the clouds (in the same way that he was taken up at his ascension)

• His elect, including Christians martyred during the tribulation, will rule with him for a thousand years

There is one more passage – Matthew 24:40-41 – that is used by the rapture proponents to describe the snatching away of believers into heaven:

“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.” (NLT)

But this passage must be interpreted in light of the preceding verses 37-39 in which Jesus teaches that his second coming will be like in the days of Noah when the people did not heed Moses’ warning about the coming Flood and went about living life as usual. When the Flood came, it “took them away” or “swept them away,” depending on the various translations. It is this destructive sense that one must interpret the phrase “one will be taken” in verses 40 and 41. The ones that are left behind are the ones that are saved from destruction, as were Noah and his family.

The doctrine of the rapture, as an event in which God will suddenly snatch away all Christians from earth before the tribulation of the Antichrist, is a misinterpretation of these scriptural passages and, therefore, is not biblical.

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The following is a repost of a blog post by Dr. R. C. Sproul, theologian, author, and pastor:

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The Bible is a book. It may be called a collection of books compiled into one majestic volume.

As a book it is designed to be read. In this respect it is like all other books. But in important ways, the Bible is not like any other book. It is the Book of books. We customarily call this book the Holy Bible. Its holiness is found in its otherness. It is a sacred book because it transcends and stands apart from and above every other book. It is holy because its ultimate Author is holy. It is holy because its message is holy. And it is holy because its content is designed to make us holy.

The Bible is an inspired book; that is, it is “breathed out” by God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is inspired in a way that reaches far beyond the inspiration of human artists. The Bible offers more than brilliant insight, more than human sagacity. It is called “inspired” not because of its supernatural mode of transmission via human authors, but because of its origin. It is not merely a book about God; it is a book from God. Therefore, the true church confesses its trust and confidence that the Bible is the vox Dei, the veritable “voice of God.”

The Bible is a normative book. The church has rightly declared that the Bible is the “norm of norms, and without norm.” A norm is a standard, a measuring rod by which things are judged. We may use many lesser standards to regulate our lives, but all such regulations must be subordinate to Scripture. To be the “norm of norms” is to be the superlative norm, the standard by which all other norms are measured. The Bible is not simply “first among equals”; other standards have no parity with it. As Jesus is exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords, so we submit to His Word as the norm of norms, the standard of truth, and the one infallible rule for the people of God.

God is the Lord of heaven and earth, and He alone is able to impose absolute obligation upon His creatures. He does this through the written Word. The Reformers of the sixteenth century recognized this unique authority of the Bible, expressing it in the motto sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” The Reformers did not despise other authorities or deny the value of tradition and the creeds, but they distinguished the singular authority of the Bible, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

God calls every Christian to pursue righteousness. Our trust is to be childlike, but our understanding must be mature. Such trust and understanding require study of God’s Word. The authentic disciple meditates on it day and night. Our goal is more than knowledge; it is wisdom, the fruit of inward and outward obedience. It is our prayer that the Reformation Study Bible will aid students of the Bible in their understanding of Scripture that they might walk wisely before the Lord in all wisdom.

The Reformation Study Bible is so called because it stands in the Reformed tradition of the original Geneva Bible of the sixteenth century. In modern Geneva, Switzerland, a memorial wall has been built and dedicated to the sixteenth-century Reformation. This International Monument to the Reformation is adorned with statues of the great leaders John Calvin, Theodore Beza, William Farel, and John Knox. Surrounding these figures is the phrase Post Tenebras Lux—“After darkness, light.”

The light of the Reformation was the light of the Bible. Luther translated the Bible, which in his day could be read almost exclusively by professionals who knew Latin, into everyday German that could be read by ordinary people. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. Yet there was substantial opposition to these efforts in England. Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536, and later, the Reformation was suppressed during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–58). The Roman Catholic Mass was enforced, services could not be conducted in English, and priests were forbidden to marry. Two hundred eighty-eight people were burned alive, including the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

These persecutions drove exiles from Britain to the European Continent. Many of the most capable scholars among them came to Geneva. There they undertook the task of preparing a new translation of the Bible in English. This new translation, the Geneva Bible, was published in 1560 and was carefully designed to be accurate and understandable. It was the first English Bible to use verse divisions, as “most profitable for memory” and for finding and comparing other passages. It included study notes explaining Scripture based on the interpretative principles reclaimed during the Reformation.

The Geneva Bible was the most widely used translation in the English-speaking world for a hundred years. It was the Bible used by John Bunyan, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, and William Shakespeare. Though the King James Bible was published in 1611, it did not supplant the Geneva Bible until fifty years later. It was the Geneva Bible that the Pilgrims and Puritans carried to the shores of the New World. It was used by many American colonists who read it, studied it, and sought to live by its light.

Since the Geneva Bible was published, a multitude of English translations and study Bibles have appeared. This present volume intends to return to the clarity and power of that important translation. By presenting a modern restatement of biblical, Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes, the Reformation Study Bible aims to carry on the legacy of the Geneva Bible in shining forth the light of biblical Christianity, which was recovered in the Reformation.

The Reformed tradition understands biblical Christianity as “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This faith, we believe, is expressed in the ecumenical creeds common to all Christian traditions, together with the Reformation distinctives that are the result of accepting the Bible as the supreme and only infallible authority for faith and practice. We believe that these ecumenical creeds and the Reformation confessions provide the church with a full-orbed summary of the doctrine of Scripture. The words of the Bible are true, and its message is powerful. It conveys the infallible promise of God, its Author, that it will not return to Him empty but will certainly accomplish His intended purpose (Is. 55:11).

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Trouble was brewing at the wedding. A very embarrassing and humiliating situation was about to shatter the joyful celebration of the bride and groom and their families. And since the wedding arrangements were the responsibility of the groom’s family, it could result in the bride’s family suing the groom and his family.

The cause? A sacred hospitality duty was about to be broken by the groom’s family—they had just run out of a crucial item in the nuptial celebration—wine! (John 2:1-12)

Before the wedding guests could become aware of the wine shortage, Jesus’ mother, Mary, told him about the problem. The Gospel of John tells us that she, Jesus, and five of his disciples were guests at the wedding—which raises the question as to how or why she knew about the problem.

New Testament commentator William Barclay points out that one of the Coptic gospels from Egypt states that Mary was a sister of the groom’s mother, and that other early sources identify the groom as the disciple John, whose mother was Salome, the sister of Mary. Such family ties and threat to the family’s reputation would undoubtedly give Mary reason to seek the help of Jesus in solving the problem.

Jesus’ response to his mother, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come,” though seemingly rude to our modern ear, is not necessarily so. It was more a way of distancing himself from Mary as her son (Mt. 12:48; Mark 3:33), for he was about to embark on his journey towards the “hour” of his death, resurrection, and ascension as the Messiah.

Not put off by his reply, Mary told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” She most likely did not have any idea what he would do or how he would solve the problem, but she was confident that he would.

And so he did—quietly and miraculously, turning nearly 180 gallons of water into such exquisite tasting wine that the master of ceremony, not knowing where it had come from, gushed to the bridegroom, “You have kept the best wine until now!”

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This miracle at the wedding in Cana speaks to us in several ways:

  • Jesus’ presence in the midst of the wedding festivity reminds us that he wants to share in our happy occasions; he was not a killjoy or sourpuss, and neither should we be. We should always celebrate life in a way that reflects his joyful presence.
  • Mary’s willingness to bring her problem to Jesus without knowing how he would solve it reminds us that we, too, should come boldly and confidently to him in prayer, yet without any preconceived notion as to how he will answer our prayers.
  • The enormous amount of wine is more than could be drunk at a wedding, and must be seen, not simply as a miracle of water being turned to wine, but as Jesus’ superabundant, extravagant, inexhaustible grace that meets our deepest needs and transforms our lives—“for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John. 1:16, ESV).
  • This grace must also be seen in the context of verse 11 that tells us that this miracle was the first sign of his coming glory, a term that John uses in reference to the life and ministry of Jesus (John. 1:14; 11:4; 17:22, 24), and to his death, resurrection, and ascension (John. 13:31, 32; 17:5) in order that he might save all who believe in him.

As with his transformation of water into wine, so can his superabundant, extravagant, inexhaustible grace transform each of us from perishing to saved, from sinner to saint, from ordinary to extraordinary, from pedestrian to remarkable, from uninspired to inspired and inspiring!

The question that we each must answer for ourselves, whether believer or unbeliever, is:

Will I allow Jesus to continue his transforming work of grace . . . in me?”

*****

Derrick Garland Coy:

Reblogged from missiontomission, written by Brian Fulmer.

Originally posted on missiontomission:

I was created by my mother to reproduce; I assume to be her legacy.  But I was a failure from the start as it was learned that I was not fertile.  I was removed from my mother immediately (again I assumed because I had no worth to her).  What good is an infertile being to it’s mother?  After being loaded in a dirty truck I was put through harsh showers and abused by harsh lights and belts only to end up in a dark cold box where I was cold and alone.  What had I done to deserve this?

Again I was moved, lifted, boxed and moved again only to end up in another cold place where I sat for days, possibly weeks.  After one more move I found myself in the worst predicament of my life – in boiling water!  God, I cried, why am I being tortured when all I…

View original 395 more words

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When we pray for God’s blessings, most likely we envision people, things, and conditions that we believe will make us happy—loving relationships, close family and friends, good health, material things, financial assets, good jobs, successful careers, long life, and much more.

While Scripture includes some of those as blessings or rewards (e.g., Gen.15:1-3; Job 42:12-17; 1 Sam.2:20-21; Ps. 112), it more frequently refers to God’s blessings in spiritual terms or as a state of being in relationship to God or Jesus Christ.

In the priestly blessing that God gave Aaron to proclaim over the people of Israel (Num. 6:24-26), and later used as a benediction in Christian worship services, the blessing covers God’s people with his divine protection, pleasure, graciousness, favor, and peace.

When Jesus taught his disciples and followers about blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-11), he didn’t promise earthly prosperity, pleasure, or laughter. He promised a joyful, hopeful experience with God—independent of outward circumstances and things that we deem necessary for happiness. In fact, he taught that God blesses the poor in spirit, the mournful, the spiritually destitute, the persecuted, the oppressed, the unaggressive, the powerless, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the pure in heart.

And throughout the New Testament, God’s blessings are seen in terms of a happy state of being because of a believer’s relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—as in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

“How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.” –(Eph. 1:3, NLT)

Paul goes on to name these spiritual blessings that become ours as followers of Jesus Christ:

• God loved us and chose us for salvation before the world began (1:4)
• God adopted us as his children (1:5)
• God regards us as holy and blameless (1:5)
• God lavished his kindness on us because we belong to Christ (1:6-8)
• God purchased our freedom from sin’s destructive dominance and forgave our sins (1:7)
• God bestowed on us spiritual insight, wisdom, and understanding to guide us through our new life with Christ (1:8; 1:17)
• God granted us an eternal inheritance in his Kingdom (1:11)
• God gave us the Holy Spirit as his guarantee that we belong to him and will receive our full redemption and future glory (1:14; Rom 8:23)

All of these blessings are ours to enjoy during this lifetime and are a foretaste of the eternal glory that we will enjoy in our heavenly realms (1:3; 2:6; 3:10) at our death or upon Christ’s return to establish his new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).

So as we give praise and thanks to God for our present blessings of shelter, clothing, food, loved ones, health, jobs, and the many other things that help to make life enjoyable, let us not cling to them and take them for granted. They are not permanent. We could lose them.

And may we remember to daily give praise and thanks to God for all the spiritual blessings that are ours because we belong to Christ. Those blessings are permanent and eternal, and we can count on them!

****

Nick and his son, Kiyoshi

Nick and his son, Kiyoshi

Born without arms and legs, Nick Vujicic is a living demonstration of the power of God to use our human weaknesses and failures to transform our lives, inspire others, and fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.

Nick is a young man who uses his limbless body to achieve many activities that we take for granted throughout our lives—walk, swim, surf, kick a ball, sky dive, develop careers, fall in love, marry, and have children.

Nick knows hardships, struggles, failures, depression, self-doubt, and thoughts of suicide, yet through his faith in God, he is able to overcome his trials and inspire millions of people around the world as an author, evangelist, motivational speaker, and now as an actor.

In this short dramatic film, “The Butterfly Circus,” he portrays a young man who, despite being considered a “freak” by others, discovers that he is a person of value with a unique purpose in life. Please enjoy this video, and be sure to view it in full screen mode.

(If the video frame does not appear on this page or doesn’t respond, please view the video by placing your cursor on the title of this post, then clicking the title.)

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That is the question that the apostle Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 2:16, paraphrasing the prophet Isaiah who concluded that the thoughts of God are so amazing that they are beyond our comprehension (Isa 40:12-13).

While admitting that it’s impossible for anyone to understand God’s decisions and methods (Rom. 11:33), Paul declares that God has given us access to God’s “secret wisdom” or “secret plan,” and allowed us to know what the Lord is thinking—for we have the mind of Christ! (1 Cor. 2:16)

In letters to both the Corinthian and Ephesian churches, Paul explains that the secret wisdom or secret plan of God was made before the world began, and was hidden from mankind throughout human history until it was revealed at the right time—first to Paul and later to the other apostles and prophets. (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:3-5)

God’s secret plan was to save all people from sin and eternal death, not just people from the nation of Israel as the Jews believed. It was to be a salvation through the virgin birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who would save all people who believe in him. Jesus has power over sin and death, a power that he offers to all who believe in him. (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Tim. 2:3-7)

This revelation, Paul says, came through the Holy Spirit who searches out everything and shows us even God’s deepest secrets, so that we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. (1 Cor. 2:10, 12)

Acknowledging that there are many skeptics to these truths, Paul adds:

“But people who aren’t Christians can’t understand these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can’t understand us at all.” (1 Cor. 2:14-15, NLT)

While Paul and the apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, used their preaching, teaching, and writing to reveal the good news that all sinners can find forgiveness and have a new and abundant life in Jesus Christ, those of us who follow Jesus also have the privilege and responsibility in sharing this good news of God’s love and salvation to our generation.

And since we, too, have the Holy Spirit living with us—from the very moment that we believed in Christ as our savior—we have been given access to the mind of Christ through the Spirit who leads us to all truth (Jn. 14:17), never leaves us (Jn. 14:16), teaches us (Jn. 14:26), reminds us of Jesus’ words (Jn. 14:26; 15:26), quickens our conscience regarding sin and righteousness (Jn. 16:8), gives us insight into future events (Jn. 16:13), and glorifies Christ by revealing to us what the Spirit receives from Christ (Jn. 16:14).

The Holy Spirit has not only given us access to the mind of Christ for our personal spiritual development and enrichment, but has endowed each of us with various spiritual gifts with which to serve our Christian brothers and sisters in the church, and to take the Gospel to the rest of the world.

So, as we seek to live in tune with the mind of Jesus Christ, may the following advice from Paul to the Colossian church inspire and encourage us:

“Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Col. 3:16-17, NLT)

*****

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