No One Knows The Day Or The Hour

No One Knows The Day Or The Hour – A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – http://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/prophecy/no-one-knows-the-day-or-the-hour/

Those who ignore the study of end times prophecy are fond of quoting this famous line which appears in various forms in Matt. 24:36, Matt. 24:42,44, Matt. 24:50 and Matt 25:13 as their justification. But earlier in the same passage, the Lord had admonished all who would read His words of prophecy to understand them (Matt 24:15) and elsewhere the Apostle Paul wrote that the events leading up to the end of the age should not take believers by surprise (1 Thes 5:4) implying that we should have done enough homework to see them coming.

Since the Bible cannot contradict itself, these passages must have been aimed at different audiences. And sure enough, a closer look reveals that to be the case. In Matt. 24:36, Matt. 24:42,44, Matt. 24:50 and Matt 25:13 the Lord was only speaking to people remaining on Earth at His Second Coming, while in Matt. 24:15 he was issuing a warning to those who would be living in Israel early in Daniel’s 70th Week. We know this because He mentioned a Temple which doesn’t exist yet. Of course in 1 Thes 5:4 Paul was addressing the Church.

What Paul was saying is that while we won’t know the exact timing of things, we should understand the sequence of events leading up to the Day of the Lord. And perhaps no event in the sequence is more important than the Rapture of the Church, especially as it relates to the Great Tribulation.

That being the case, it seems to me that the first thing we should do in trying to understand all this is to clarify two things. One is the purpose of the Great Tribulation, and the other is the nature of the Church.

The Purpose of the Great Tribulation

The phrase Great Tribulation makes reference to a defined period of time, not a general condition. While the Lord warned the disciples that tribulation (trouble) would be characteristic of life in this world (John 16:33), He clearly identified the Great Tribulation as having a specific beginning and end. It will begin when the abomination that causes desolation predicted by Daniel is erected in the Temple (in the middle of the last 7 years of history) and will end just prior to the Lord’s return, three and one half years later (Daniel 9:24-27, Matt. 24:15-21).

Daniel’s prophecy is pointedly Jewish in its perspective and so is the Great Tribulation. Until the Lord coined its New Testament name in Matt 24:21 it was referred to as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is where its purpose is explained.

In Jeremiah 30:1-11 the event is foretold and in the last verse its purpose is explained. “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.” The idea is that Israel has to be purified to receive their coming King, and the nations who rejected the King and persecuted His people must be destroyed.

The timing of the passage is also made clear. It will take place after Israel is re-gathered in the land, and will result in David becoming their King again (Jere. 30:8-10). There have been two re-gatherings since the passage was written, but the first, beginning in 535 BC, didn’t result in David becoming their King. In fact they have had no legitimate King at all since about 600 BC. Neither were all the nations completely destroyed then.

The second re-gathering began after World War 2 and continues to this day. Though the population of Israel keeps growing, so do the Jewish populations of all the nations to which the Jews have been scattered. In fact there are about as many Jews outside of Israel as there are in the land. All that will change when the Lord calls all His people to return to their Promised Land following His victory in the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 (see Ezekiel 39:28). Because of this amazing victory the Jewish people will restore their national covenant with God, build a Temple in which to worship Him, and Daniel’s missing 70th week will begin.

So the purpose of the Great Tribulation is twofold; discipline (purify) the people of Israel so they’ll be prepared for the coming Messiah, and completely destroy the nations to which they had been scattered.

The Nature of the Church

According to Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the Church is nothing less than a new race of mankind, coming from among both Jews and Gentiles but sharing a destiny with neither. (Ephe. 2:15-16) The problem had always been that God could not dwell in the midst of His creation. The sins of the people eventually drove Him away. At the cross, He reconciled all things to himself, things in heaven and on earth (Col 1:19-20). This meant that He can now be at peace with His creation for the first time since the Fall of Man. He accomplished this by paying the price for all the sin of mankind. Now, for anyone who would accept it, a full pardon for behavior past, present and future is available, free for the asking (Matt. 7:7-8).

Accepting this pardon qualifies any person, young or old, Jew or Gentile, good or bad to become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). And it permits God to look upon this person as if he or she is without sin altogether; and in fact as if he or she had never sinned to begin with. It also required the division of mankind into three groups: Jew, Gentile and Church. (1 Cor. 10:32)

It’s critical that we understand God’s perspective. To Him the Church is without sin, holy and blameless, and has been since the cross (Ephes. 5:25-27). Whatever sins we as individuals have committed (or will commit) have been forgiven and forgotten. It’s as if they never happened (Ephe 1:4-8). At the cross, the Church became as pure and holy as God Himself (2 Cor 5:21), so finally God has a people with whom He can live in peace.

What’s the Point?

First, not needing purification, no purpose is served by the Church enduring the Great Tribulation. Second, the focus of the Great Tribulation is Israel and God’s focus seems to be either Israel or the Church, never both. (This was explained by James in Acts 15:12-18.) If you take the view that the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 occurs before Daniel’s 70th Week begins, and realize that one outcome of that battle is that Israel turns back to God, (Eze 39:28-29) then you know the Church’s days on earth are numbered.

Then there are passages of Scripture that indicate the Church won’t be present for any of the end times judgments. Look at these examples:

In Romans 5:9 and 1 Thes 1:10 Paul promised that the Church will be rescued from God’s wrath. The Greek preposition translated “from” in both these verses means “from the time, place or any relation to the event. ” Jesus Himself confirmed this in Rev. 3:10. Speaking through the Church in Philadelphia, He said, “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.” 1 Thes. 5:9 says the Church was not appointed to suffer wrath, and with the seal judgments of Rev. 6 His wrath will have begun. Therefore the rapture of the Church will have to precede Rev. 6.

Also, the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians only makes sense if Paul had taught them the pre-trib rapture view. A careful reading shows that they had received a forgery claiming the Day of the Lord had come (2 Thes. 2:2) . If Paul had taught a post-trib view their response would have been something like, “The next 7 years will be very difficult, but then the Kingdom will come.” Instead it was alarm, such as they would feel upon learning they had missed the Rapture. And if they had missed the rapture, that would mean they weren’t saved. That would certainly be cause for alarm.

Other Hints of a Pre-Trib Rapture

The period of the Great Tribulation is the most thoroughly documented from a time standpoint of any Biblical event. From various verses it’s described as 3 and 1/2 years, or 42 months, or 1260 days long. These are all equivalent times. It begins the day the anti-Christ stands in the Temple in Jerusalem and proclaims himself to be God and it ends 1260 days later. How do you have a “secret rapture” at the end of the Great Tribulation when any knowledgeable believer will be able to mark the day of its end on his calendar?

The Sheep and Goat Judgment of Matt 25:31-46 clearly portrays events following the Second Coming as the Lord establishes His Kingdom on Earth. The sheep are symbolic of believers and the goats of non-believers. The judgment concerns people who have survived the Great Tribulation. Sheep go into the Kingdom (Matt. 25:34) and goats go into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). There couldn’t be any sheep on Earth for this judgment if all believers had just been raptured, but if the Church will be raptured before the end times judgments begin, then there will be at least 7 years for a new crop of believers to be born again. Some of them will survive the Great Tribulation to become the sheep of the Sheep and Goat judgment.

In Summary

There are sound theological reasons why God keeps the exact timing of the Rapture secret. But He has given us plenty of evidence as to its general timing to prevent us from being taken by surprise at the end of the Age. A recent panel of prophecy experts agreed that the most important sign that the end is near is not that any specific Biblical sign is evident, but that all the signs the Lord told us to look for are in some stage of fulfillment.

A bus stop only draws a crowd as the time for the bus to arrive draws near. Then people come to watch for the bus, expecting it to arrive, and wait for it, because they know its arrival is near. Having given us several signs of His return the Lord instructs us to watch, expecting Him to arrive, and wait for Him, knowing that His arrival is near. And since His arrival is near, the rapture is even nearer. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.

Nearing Midnight: Christophobia

Nearing Midnight: Christophobia – Terry James – http://www.raptureready.com/rap16.html

One of the most telling signals of these last days I want to point to in this essay flashes daily in the spiritual eyes of observers of these prophetic times.

We are bombarded, of course, by things surrounding the nation Israel, which is the number-one sign of where we stand on God’s prophetic timeline. We see the violence that seems to be rising to the level, perhaps, nearly like it was in the days of Noah. The moral depravity hits us between the eyes hourly with homosexuality on the way to becoming the preferred lifestyle, not merely an alternative lifestyle, if Hollywood and this administration have their way.

We have become worse as a generation, just in America, than some of the most pagan of societies of past ages. I refer to the murder of more than 57 million unborn babies who have been sacrificed on the altars of convenience since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Abortion is indeed a religion of sort for those who worship the god of self rather than the God Who is the giver of life.

All of that said, I can think of no signal, sign, or attitude that more strongly signifies the lateness of the prophetic hour than that of the current, irrational anger toward Jesus Christ.

Those of us who hold to biblical values for maintaining sane, moral society and culture are accused of waging war on women, are said to be sexists, are called extremists of every description, or are designated homophobes and Islamaphobes. If we want an America like the Founding Fathers gave us and for which millions have fought and died, we are called judgmental and full of hate speech. We are insensitive, inflammatory, and in need of being locked away or sent for re-education/training.

The progressives brand us with all of the phobias they have coined or invented. They equate our belief system with irrational, schizophrenic behavior that is intolerant and that must be judicially dispatched so everyone else can forge ahead into a new age free of Christian restrictiveness.

They are absolutely right in one respect. It is the Christian worldview that is the holdup to wickedness being given free rein and/or reign, make no mistake. Paul foretells in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 that it is the Restrainer-the Holy Spirit, resident within each believer-the Church, that is indeed holding back evil.

Islam is not considered in the liberal mind as being part of things gone awry. This is because the same father of lies directs this sort of thought process like he directs the perverted theology of Islam. Muslim thought and action are, for example, given almost complete nonculpable status around the world by this presidential administration and by mainstream news media.

This same spiritually dark thinking was made manifest in the Benghazi matter when a video-which practically no one viewed-was blamed for an uprising that murdered the American ambassador and others. The truth is that it was Muslim hatred-Islamist terrorists- that planned then perpetrated those ghastly murders.

One recent example of this was when the Nigerian Christian schoolgirls were abducted in Chibok. Rather than blame the Boko Haram Muslim terrorists, the administration line was leaked that it was the Christian government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan that was to blame for the abduction. It was proposed that if that Christian government had been less restrictive and more accommodating to those of Islam, the (group) would not have acted as they did.

This American president has from the very beginning made it clear that he views America as a non-Christianity-oriented country. He announced right after taking the oath of office that this is no longer a Christian nation.

Now, I’m not saying I disagree with his assessment. America certainly is moving fast and furiously away from the docks of Judeo-Christian moorings to which this ship of state was safely attached by the Founding Fathers. But, it is his administration’s constant and consistent support of or silence about judicial action against Christians that is so starkly disturbing at this present hour. I will just mention a few very brief examples here of the growing hatred of governmental agencies and others for Christian, Bible-based thought. I could cite dozens, and I’m sure you’ve read or heard dozens of examples yourself.

A Methodist church in New Jersey was sued for not offering its facility for use during same-sex weddings. A judge ruled against them. (LifeSiteNews.com]

Christian photographers, Elane Photography, in New Mexico was approached by a same-sex couple looking to hire a wedding photographer. Elane Photography politely declined, citing their Christian faith. The studio was sued by the couple under the state’s antidiscriminatory laws, and the couple won. (Amicus Brief in Elane Photography v. Willock; cited by Eugene Volokh on November 2, 2012 in Freedom of Speech)

Twin brothers, Jason and David Benham, were preparing to launch a show on HGTV this fall entitled Flip It Forward. In the show, the brothers would be helping families in need renovate their homes. But when their staunch Christian beliefs were brought into the limelight by Right Wing Watch, HGTV cancelled the show before it ever had a chance to air. Their crime? A strong stance against homosexuality, abortion, and radical Islam. (Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, “The Silencing of American Christians, http://www.rightsidenews.com/2014050934250/life-and-science/culture-wars/the-silencing-of-american-christians.html; published on May 9, 2014)

These post-Christian-era bastions of “toleration” call Christian “homophobes” and “Islamaphobes,” and accuse Bible-believing people of being “haters.” But, it is becoming increasingly obvious that they, themselves, are victims of the reprobate thinking-the turning toward insane ways of thought, as given by the apostle Paul in Romans, chapter 1.

They are “Christophobes.” They fear and hate anything to do with Jesus Christ. They see what is represented by His Holy Name as inflammatory and intolerant.

This doesn’t surprise. As a matter of fact, it is a major signal of where we are at present on God’s prophetic timeline.

Jesus said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” (John 15: 18-21)

Between First Fruits and Pentecost

Between First Fruits and Pentecost – A Bible Study by Jack Kelley – http://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/holidays-and-holy-days/between-first-fruits-and-pentecost/

For some time now, I’ve been puzzled about the time between the resurrection and the ascension, wondering why the Lord lingered during those 40 days. It certainly wasn’t to complete His mission. By all accounts He had already accomplished everything He came to do. It seems like He would have been more anxious to return to His heavenly home.

The Olivet Discourse

My curiosity was first aroused during a review of the Olivet Discourse. To show you what I mean we’ll have to do a quick review of the first 34 verses of Matt. 24. I’m particularly interested in the way the Lord answered the disciples’ questions about the signs of His coming and the End of the age. The disciples were clearly looking for specific signs. But in Matt. 24:4-14 He began by mentioning a handful of general signs that don’t appear to have any clear relevance to time.

First He warned them that many false messiahs would come claiming to be Him. Next came wars and rumors of wars, but He said not to be alarmed by such things, they wouldn’t be signs of the end. Then He gave the “birth pang” signs, famines, earthquakes and, in Luke’s account, pestilence. These are signature signs of coming judgment that Jesus said would lead up to the end.

He said Jews would be persecuted and put to death, hated by all nations. This would cause many to turn away from the Jewish faith to hate and betray each other. False prophets would also appear and deceive many people. The love of most would grow cold but he who stood firm to the end would be saved. I believe the love He was talking about here is the love of God, because this is the love that saves us.

I wonder what the disciples thought about all of this so far. Remember they were under the impression that Israel was 483 years into a 490 year period that would see the culmination of God’s plan for mankind (Daniel 9:24). Up until an hour or so earlier they had assumed that the magnificent Temple King Herod was building was part of the preparation for restoring their Kingdom to its former glory. But then Jesus had told them it was all going to be torn down. Now He was giving them vague and general answers to their specific questions.

Finally, in Matt. 24:15, He gave them the first clear sign. An abomination that causes desolation would be set up in the Holy Place. They knew this had happened once before. The Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes had set one up almost 200 years earlier as part of his demand that they worship him as God. It made the temple unfit for use, and the way the Lord had miraculously cleansed it is still celebrated every year in the Feast of Hanukkah. It was the only time it had ever happened. Jesus said when they saw that happen again, they should immediately flee into the mountains.

He said the abomination of desolation will bring about the Great Tribulation, a terrible time of judgment, the worst the world ever has seen or ever will see. He said if he didn’t bring it to an end at the appointed time no one on Earth would survive, but for the sake of the elect He would bring it to its end. He said when He did that the sun and moon would stop shining and the stars would fall out of the sky (Matt. 24:29). Then they’d see His sign, the only source of light in the dark sky, and finally they will see Him coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30).

In all this He never mentioned the Church. (In fact in His entire earthly ministry, He only mentioned the Church twice, in Matt. 16:18 and Matt. 18:17.) He didn’t even hint at the fact that 2,000 years would separate their time and the time of the first specific sign. He spoke of everything as if it was going to happen to them. It’s also clear He was addressing them as representatives of Israel.

From our perspective we see that He could have been much more specific, especially with the earlier signs. But the clear explanation of how things would actually unfold didn’t come until the Council of Jerusalem 20 years later. In effect, James told the group of early Church leaders, “Israel is being set aside until the Lord takes from among the Gentiles a people for Himself. Then He’ll return to rebuild David’s fallen tabernacle” (Acts 15:13-18). During the Olivet Discourse Jesus had made no mention of this happening.

What Was He Waiting For?

Then there’s the issue of the apparent dead time between the resurrection and the ascension. What was that all about? He didn’t do any public teaching or healing, and there were no other miracles either. After His meeting with the disciples on Resurrection Sunday there were only 6 more recorded appearances. 4 were to the disciples (John 20:26-31, John 21:1-23, Matt. 28:16-20, Acts 1:3-8), one was to James (1 Cor. 15:7) and one was to about 500 others, his only public appearance (1 Cor. 15:6) between the resurrection and the ascension.

Otherwise the Bible is silent about how He spent His time. There’s no account of discussions being held on how to launch the Church, and He didn’t fill in any of the blanks from the Olivet Discourse. We know why He didn’t go back to the Temple. He told the leaders there they wouldn’t see Him again until they said, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39).

The Unmistakable Sign

Before the cross these leaders had asked the Lord for a sign to prove He was the messiah. Even though His ministry was characterized by miracles that confirmed Old Testament prophecies about Him, He told them the only sign He would give them was the sign of the prophet Jonah. He said just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, He would spend 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the Earth (Matt. 12:40).

And then He did just what He told them He was going to do. Surely they all knew of His resurrection, but none of the officials sought Him out. What do you suppose they were thinking? Many overlook this, but His resurrection was the most unmistakably miraculous sign He could have given them. It didn’t take any faith to interpret, and it couldn’t have been fabricated. It’s as if He had looked them in the eye and said, “I know you’re going to kill me. But after three days I’m going to rise again, and that’s how you’ll know I’m your Messiah. That sign will prove it to you beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Acts 1:3-5 confirms that He appeared to the disciples from time to time over a 40 day period as we saw above, and says He told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. Then He ascended into Heaven.

After considerable thought, I have concluded those 40 days were Israel’s time of probation, or trial. The Bible contains several such 40 day periods, involving Moses and Israel (Exodus 24:18), Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3:4), Ezekiel and Judah (Ezekiel 4:6), and Jesus (Matt; 4:2). There are also 15 references to 40 year periods of trial, and one to a 400 year period (40 x 10). For this reason the number 40 has become associated in the Bible with trial.

Jesus had given them the sign He promised, one that no one else could ever give them, and now He was giving them time to respond. I think His offer of the Kingdom was still on the table during that time. He was waiting for them to accept, knowing they wouldn’t, but waiting just the same.

And consider this. The three day-three night sign may not have been the Lord’s only reason for comparing Himself to Jonah. God had sent Jonah to preach destruction to the Ninevites. It was a simple but devastating message; “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” (Jonah 3:4)

Jesus had repeatedly warned Israel of the consequences for rejecting Him. In Matt. 21:43 He said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

And remember that first Palm Sunday? “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44) (Note that He called Himself God.)

As it had been with Jonah, this was a straight forward pronouncement of judgment. There was no indication they could change things. But in Nineveh the people repented anyway, from the lowest to the highest. When God saw this He had compassion on them and did not bring the destruction He had threatened (Jonah 3:10).

Could the judgment on Israel have been avoided too? What if after Jesus had given them the “sign of Jonah” they had repented like the Ninevites had? Could they also have stayed the hand of God?

Obviously, God knew the Ninevites would repent. Jonah even accused Him of knowing this and said that was why he ran away instead of warning them of the coming judgment (Jonah 4:1-2).

Just as obviously He knew the Israelites would not. But as I’ve said before, knowing the future is not the same as controlling it. God has given man free will, after all. Had the Ninevites not repented they would have been judged, but because they did repent God demonstrated His mercy and stood down.

Likewise had the Israelites repented, perhaps they could have avoided the judgment that sent them into exile for 2000 years. After all, God will forgive them as soon as they ask Him, and will restore their Kingdom as well (Joel 3:20-21). I just wonder if they could have begun their restoration within that 40 days of trial after the Resurrection. It appears that’s what the disciples thought would happen. Just before He ascended they asked the Lord, “Are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:8).

Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear

Please understand me. Jesus had to die. Right from the Garden it’s been known that it would take the Messiah’s death to redeem us from our bondage to sin. And the judgment of those who rejected God’s remedy for their sins also had to happen, because whether then or now, Daniel’s 70th Week had to be fulfilled. I’m just wondering if Israel could have made the last 2000 years of national suffering unnecessary by responding to the Lord’s offer of the Kingdom while He was still here.

History shows that after the 40 days had expired, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophet Hosea. “I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (Hosea 5:15)

Zechariah 12:10 says the time will come when they will admit their guilt, and according to Joel 3:21, when they do God will pardon them. And then they will finally receive the Kingdom He’s been waiting 2000 years to give them.