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The End Times: My view on the Rapture and Great Tribulation

Oh boy, this is a heavy topic, and I have absolutely no idea how this post is going to turn out. It could literally go on for thousands and thousands of words. But I think it’s better that I attempt at least something now rather than wait…

In the Bible, this information is found primarily in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (found near the end of the gospels, such as Matthew 24 or Luke 21) and, of course, the Book of Revelation. You’ll also find tons of information and parallels in Old Testament books like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and a couple others. I find Daniel to be the most helpful and easy to use.

I’ll start by sharing a quick overview of the end times.

Basically, the Bible gives us certain signs to watch out for. They range from the general to the very specific. Some of the general signs include talks of war, famine, and earthquakes. There has been an increase in all three of these areas in the last century. The Bible also talks about increasing corruption and moral decay…yep, you can check that off the list as well. In fact, if we follow biblical precedent, this movement of legalizing gay marriage in America could be signs that judgment is at the door.

However, beyond these are very specific signs we can scope on the horizon. A couple of them have already happened, but most of the rest won’t happen until the seven-year Great Tribulation, which is when pre-tribulationists believe Christians will be gone from this world anyway. What’s important is to see them coming. An analogy one pastor uses is this: If we see the decorations for Christmas going up (Tribulation), then we know Thanksgiving is coming soon (Rapture).

The most important sign that has taken place is that Israel became its own nation in 1948. Before this, for about 1,900 years, the Jews had been widely dispersed with no homeland of their own. Now, they have migrated back to Israel and not only that, they are speaking in their ancient tongue of Hebrew again. This is unprecedented in human history, and it happened within the lifetimes of our parents or grandparents. (I really don’t understand how there could have been Rapture predictions before this point in history.)

So once that happened, the clock started ticking. Things are being set in motion at a faster pace than ever before.

We also know that the Great Commission—God’s command to preach His gospel to all the nations of the world—is all but completed.

Further into the future, we know that certain things are going to take place during the Tribulation (these are just a few of many):

– At some point (probably right after the Tribulation begins), the Jewish people will rebuild their temple in Jerusalem once again. There are currently groups in place to rebuild once they get the OK. They have all kinds of tools, materials, and religious objects on the ready. In fact, with modern technology, they estimate that they could complete the temple within 8 months (in biblical times, it took over 46 years).

– The economic systems of the world will all come crumbling down until eventually, a desperate unifying measure takes place. There will be one world currency—probably a cash-less system—where people must receive the “mark of the beast” in order to buy or sell anything. This won’t happen until halfway through the Tribulation period. Some speculate that this could happen in the form of a microchip implant. While this particular prophetic sign seemed far-fetched even less than a decade ago, we’ve been seeing world economies and currencies crumbling before our eyes, seemingly all at once. Even the big honcho, America, recently saw its dollar downgraded. Experts know that we are stretched far beyond our capacity already, so it’s only a matter of time…

– The world will unify under the leadership of one man. The Jews will think that this is (finally) the coming of their messiah. He will promise peace and harmony,  even leading the world toward a single world religion. Of course, we know this person to be the Antichrist. While he may seem like a nice chap at first, he will fully reveal himself and his true intentions at the 3 1/2-year mark of the Tribulation by setting up images of himself (or an “abomination”)  in the temple to be worshiped. This is also when the Jews will realize the error of their ways and turn to the true Christ.

Notice that all of these things are going to have positive, practical implications at first. For instance, the one world currency is really going to help clean up the economic mess worldwide. A cash-less system will be hailed as decidedly convenient; no more credit cards or check books to deal with. Perhaps the implant or mark will also store medical records for easy access. It will have all of your personal information stored in one easy place that you can’t lose. Maybe it’ll help stop illegal immigration…

One world religion is going to seem great to the masses. There will be no more divisions or holy wars. “How wonderfully tolerant!” will be the common mantra. Thanks will be given to the Antichrist for being unity to the entire world.

It’s easy to imagine then why persecution of Christians is going to increase to epic proportions. The believers who remain on this earth are going to be the societal outcasts, refusing to get the mark of the beast. The rest of society will write us off as anarchists who hinder progress (kind of like the underground dwellers in the movie Demolition Man). Christians will be synonymous with intolerance, refusing to adopt the one world religion that every “sensible” person has. It’s not hard to imagine; the seeds of these thoughts have already been planted throughout society. It will take full bloom during the Tribulation.

Pre-Tribulation Rapture

This is the majority view in the church today, and it’s been further popularized by books (and movies) such as Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. One thing that surprised me was that this view was almost nonexistent until the 1800s when John Darby started espousing this belief. That doesn’t necessarily hurt its credibility, but it’s something to keep in mind.

A very important thing to note about this view is that nothing more needs to be fulfilled in order for the Rapture to come. It could happen at any time.

As you can tell from its name, this view states that true Christian believers will not have to go through the Tribulation, but rather will be swept up into heaven “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). We will receive our new, glorified bodies (without which we cannot enter heaven), and go up to heaven along with the believers who have passed away on earth. Some believe there will be massive earthquakes at around this same time, perhaps to open the graves.

Pre-tribulationists point to verses like Matthew 24:40, where it says that two men will be working in a field (living their everyday lives) when one will be taken, one will be left. Also, they point out that in Revelation 3:10, Jesus says this to the church of Philadelphia, which represents the rare “good church” today: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” 

The problem with this view, however, is that it requires some reading between the lines. There doesn’t seem to be an explicit mention of a sneaky Rapture to be followed later (after the Tribulation) by the real second coming of Christ. Even the verse in Revelation 3:10 can be interpreted alternatively as “keeping you through the hour of trial,” as in protecting us through it.

Many parallels are drawn to Old Testament events, such as Noah’s flood. Pre-tribulationists will point out that like the Rapture, warnings were given to the world but most of them just ignored it. Meanwhile, the faithful were busy preparing the ark. When the flood came, it was too late for the rest of the world, and God saved them from the waters (representing the Tribulation).

Post-tribulationists will point out that while God saved them from it, they were still in it. They were just protected throughout.

Post-Tribulation Rapture

This view states that the Tribulation is kind of like one final test for believers. While God is trying to win back many of his people—the Jews—we as current Christians must endure until the end. If we die during the Tribulation, we are assured that we won’t taste the second death, and that we will enjoy our eternal lives in heaven.

People who hold this view will point out that there only seems to be one explicitly mentioned second coming of Christ, which will be signaled with trumpets and lightning at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. If you remove preconceived notions from your head about Rapture, they argue, you will see that post-tribulation is the most biblical view.

Matthew 24:29-30 (NIV) says: “Immediately after the distress of those days (other translations call it “tribulation”)….Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven…”

Of course, pre-tribulationists will question whether those verses are referring to the Great Tribulation, or just times of trouble, which we are in now. The problem, though, is that this passage clearly indicates that Jesus is going to come in glory for the world to see, announced by trumpets. This hardly sounds like a secret Rapture, but rather sounds like the second coming of Christ described in other passages as happening after the Tribulation.

Which way do I lean?

I’m going to give a cop-out answer: I really have no idea. On certain days, I feel almost certain it’s pre-tribulation. On others, I swing almost completely the other way. If I write what I think currently, chances are I’ll have to come back and edit this post a million times—even more than I probably will need to already. Both views are biblical, and God seems to have painted this amazingly ambiguous picture that we can’t decipher until after the fact. Perhaps He doesn’t want people giving up on this life and getting lazy. Perhaps He wants us to prepare for the worst (post-trib), or be spiritually ready now rather than procrastinate (pre-trib). Who knows?

What about timing? How much time do we have left?

No one knows for sure, and if they tell you they do (like Harold Camping), they’re deceived. Like honest pastors and theologians will tell you, prophecy is only 100% clear in retrospect. Even in light of fulfilled prophecy in the New Testament, if you go back to the Old Testament passages that foretell those events, you can see why nobody (or very few) could actually see it coming. It makes perfect sense after the fact.

That doesn’t mean I won’t speculate somewhat, however. I do believe that the end times are near. What’s happening around the world economically and politically seems to fall in line with an imminent Tribulation. Look at what’s been going on in Libya, Syria, and countless other places.

I think there’s a chance that we will see big things moving in September of this year. Why? Because talks between Palestine and Israel could take place. Perhaps they will come to some sort of peace agreement, which could set things into motion very quickly.

Furthermore, the timing of Christ’s work seems to correspond directly with the traditional Jewish feasts (found in Leviticus 23). There are seven feasts, and the first four have corresponded with these acts:

1) Passover: Jesus’s crucifixion

2) Unleavened bread: Jesus’s death and burial

3) Firstfruits: Jesus’s resurrection

4) (50 days later) Weeks/Pentecost: The Holy Spirit comes down to earth, 10 days after Jesus ascended up to heaven.

The fifth feast is called the Feast of Trumpets, and it takes place at the end of September.

So what? What’s special about this year? Well, it could be a coincidence, but there is also a comet called Elenin which has been nearing Earth, and it’s scheduled to reach its closest point around late September to early October. Furthermore, it is going to be in alignment with the Earth and the Sun, which in the past (according to NASA models) has corresponded with great earthquakes and tsunamis in the world. Sure, it could be coincidental, but the correlations so far have been hard to ignore.

Consider the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28, and Luke 21:29). Obviously, Jesus is not talking about a particular fig tree sprouting, signaling the imminence of the end times. The principal of first mention reveals that fig trees also represent the nation of Israel. If you interpret the parable to mean Israel sprouting as an independent nation, you might take note of the year 1948. Jesus also says that after this fig tree sprouts, “this generation will certainly not pass away.” Now, there is some debate as to what a generation means exactly, but the traditional interpretation is 70 years.

You may notice that the Bible loves to use the numbers 7 (the number of perfect completion) and 70. Whether Jesus is talking about how many times to forgive someone or Daniel is calculating the number of years until Jesus arrived on the scene, these numbers are everywhere. (Note: Daniel 9:24-27 is particularly specific.)

Add 70 years to 1948, and you get 2018. But we also know that Jesus’ second coming takes place after the tribulation, which is 7 years. Subtract 7 from 2018 and you get 2011.

Now, I don’t mean to spread false information or anything, nor do I know how to calculate dates with the Jewish calendar. But the point is, we need to be ready. We need to apply the Word of God urgently to our lives and to others.

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