Tag Archives: Eschatology

Not Apostasy, But Rapture!

Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians was written as a response to a query that church had sent to the Apostle. The Thessalonians were troubled by a letter they had received, purportedly from Paul (but actually a forgery), alleging that they had entered into “the day of the LORD” (2Thess2:2). They were troubled by this since Paul had previously taught them that the rapture of the Church would happen before the outpouring of God’s wrath during the Tribulation period (1Thess4:13-5:9); if this allegation were true, and the day of the LORD had indeed begun, that meant the believers in Thessalonica had been left behind! It should be noted that the believers in Thessalonica were undergoing intense (albeit local) persecution (1Thess3:2-4), so that it was no doubt tempting for them to believe that the Tribulation had begun.

Paul’s reply was to immediately remind them of what he had previously taught them (2Thess2:5); namely, that the Antichrist cannot even be “revealed”, which begins the Tribulation (Dan9:27), until after an event he calls “the falling away” (2Thess2:3). The Greek noun translated “falling away” is apostasia, transliterated as ‘apostasy’ in some English versions. The correct translation of apostasia is ‘departure’; exactly what kind of departure is in view depends upon context, and can just as likely mean a physical departure as it does a departure from the faith (i.e., apostasy). It is interesting that all English translations before the KJV rendered apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as “departure”, whereas the KJV and most subsequent translations render it “falling away” or something which similarly implies the ‘departure’ is religious in nature. There is nothing in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, however, that demands (or even suggests) that the departure to which Paul refers be non-physical.

Furthermore, in the Greek text there is the definite article in conjunction with apostasia, so that the best translation is not “a falling away”, but “the departure”. The use of the definite article means that Paul is referring to a specific event that he expects is already known to the Thessalonians. Since Paul’s first epistle to them included the most detailed revelation of the rapture of the Church in the N.T., and in fact mentions the rapture in every chapter (1Thess1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:1-11), while not one reference to a religious apostasy or departure from the faith occurs, context demands that the specific departure to which Paul refers is the rapture. The context of 2 Thessalonians 2 also supports this, since the rapture, referred to as “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him”, introduces the chapter (2Thess2:1). Thus, the evidence is overwhelming that the departure Paul holds out as necessarily taking place before “the day of the LORD” and the revealing of the Antichrist is the rapture of the Church. Thus, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the most explicit teaching of the Pre-Trib rapture in the Bible.


Return of the Nephilim

“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:37)

 

Introduction

In response to His disciples’ questions regarding “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3), Jesus delivered an extended discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) detailing many specific signs for which they should “watch” (cf. Mark 13:32-37). Near the end of the Matthew and Luke accounts of this Olivet Discourse, Jesus gives what many have taken to be merely a summary statement of world conditions just prior to the Rapture and the subsequent start of the Tribulation (i.e., Daniel’s 70th Week; Daniel 9:27), presumed to have relatively little specific import, but what may in fact be the preeminent sign associated with the end of the Church Age. Jesus said, “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37; Cp., Luke 17:26). Jesus characterized world conditions immediately preceding the Rapture as being like those preceding the Flood of Noah. What did He mean by this?

The Days of Noah

Matthew and Luke both go on to record Jesus as saying, “For as in the days that were before the flood they were . . . marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark” (Matthew 24:38; Cp., Luke 17:27). Most have understood these words to mean that life in the antediluvian world was entirely normal, even mundane, with people going about their lives having no idea that anything out of the ordinary was imminent, and they were taken completely by surprise at the sudden intervention of God into history. They have used this understanding to argue that what Jesus was communicating is that world conditions just before the Rapture will be normal, ordinary, mundane, with no one expecting the nearness of the end.

The problem with such an understanding is that the Genesis 6 account of the conditions that set the stage for the Flood of Noah do not describe a normal, ordinary, mundane scenario. The context found there for God judging the entire world with a Flood that destroyed all but eight persons is “that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all whom they chose” (Genesis 6:2; note that Jesus’ words made specific mention of “marriage” and “giving in marriage”, Matthew 24:38). Ancient Jewish and early Christian commentators uniformly understood “the sons of God” to be a reference to angels (Cp., Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:6), in this case fallen angels, who through sexual intercourse with human women produced a hybrid race having superhuman abilities, referred to as the Nephilim[1] (Genesis 6:4). So widespread was this angelic activity that it threatened to utterly corrupt the human race, making the prophesied coming of Messiah to redeem mankind moot (cf. Hebrews 2:14-16). It was for this reason that God destroyed all flesh in the Flood (Genesis 6:17), save Noah who was “perfect in his generations” (i.e., genetically uncorrupted; Genesis 6:9), and imprisoned those fallen angels that had participated in this diabolical plan. This is not speculation, as both Peter and Jude make allusion to these ancient historical facts in their prophecies of coming, worldwide apostasy (2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 6-7).

And Also After That

Genesis 6:4 asserts that this phenomenon of angelic incursion upon the earth for the purpose of sexual intercourse with human women to produce the Nephilim took place in the days of Noah “and also after that”. When the Israelites spied out the Promised Land following their exodus from Egypt, they refused to enter because it was occupied by “giants” (Heb., Nephilim; Numbers 13:33). Though the details are not given, we suppose that another incursion of fallen angels had occurred, this time apparently limited to the geographical area of Canaan, to begin again a race of the Nephilim. Acting on the limited information he had before the Flood, Satan had to attempt to corrupt the genome of the entire human race in order to prevent the coming of Messiah (prophesied to be a human descendant of Adam/Eve; Genesis 3:15). By the time of Moses, Satan understood by revelation from God that Messiah would be a human descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e., a Jew; Genesis 12:3), and even more specifically a descendant of Jacob’s son Judah (Genesis 49:10), so he could focus his plan to corrupt the human genome to that of the Jewish race. Understanding this fact makes comprehensible God’s command forbidding intermarriage with, and ultimately the utter destruction of, the Canaanites, Amorites, and associated tribes dwelling in the Promised Land (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1-3), since they were Nephilim (even the women and children!). God’s command to destroy the tribes in Canaan was for the same reason, and to accomplish the same purpose, as the Flood of Noah; namely, to eradicate the race of the Nephilim and their corrupt genetic strain by which Satan attempted to prevent the coming of Messiah.

The Future Seed of the Serpent

The very first prophecy recorded in the Bible is Genesis 3:15. As a judgment on the serpent (i.e., Satan; Revelation 12:9) for his participation in the fall of humanity, God declared, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”. This verse prophesies the coming of two persons: 1) the seed of the woman, which is Christ, and 2) the seed the serpent, which will be Antichrist. When Christ came, he was genetically a unique mixture of divine seed and uncorrupted human seed, the God-man (Luke 1:35). In an analogous manner, when Antichrist comes, he will be a genetic mixture of Satan’s angelic seed with human seed, a Nephilim. It is for this reason that both Daniel and Revelation refer to Antichrist as “the beast”, for he will not be (entirely) human.

But the angelic incursion upon the earth in the last days will not be an isolated, solitary occurrence restricted to the generation of the Antichrist. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the angelic incursion will be much broader, “as it was in the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26). Daniel 2:40-44 indicates that the ten kings of the prophesied fourth Gentile kingdom, the Revived Roman Empire, “shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” (Daniel 2:43). Expanding on Daniel’s prophecies, John reveals that the “ten horns” of the fourth beast (Daniel 7:7), equivalent to the “ten toes” of the fourth kingdom (Daniel 2:40-42), “are ten kings” (Revelation 17:12). The verb translated “are” is eisin, a present tense indicative verb in Greek, meaning that these “ten kings” existed in John’s day (c. 95 AD), but “who have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast”. Since no human will live from the first century until the coming of Antichrist at least two thousand years later, the obvious inference is that these “ten kings” of the Revived Roman Empire will not be human, but angelic principalities (as are also in view in Daniel 10:13,20). Thus, when Daniel prophesies that these ten angelic principalities will “mingle themselves with the seed of men” (Daniel 9:43), he is talking about yet another incursion of angels upon the earth to produce Nephilim, including, but not limited to, the Antichrist.

Conclusion

Scripture reveals that fallen angels have come upon the earth and used human women to produce a hybrid race called the Nephilim. The first such an incursion took place before the Flood of Noah and was indeed the cause for God’s world-wide judgment at that time. At least one additional incursion occurred in the past after the Flood in the region of Canaan and was the cause for God’s call for the Israelites to utterly eradicate those peoples dwelling in the Promised Land. Satan’s objective in these previous angelic incursions appears to have been the corruption of the human (or Jewish) genome, thus preventing the coming of Messiah, He who will be the agent of his own prophesied destruction (Genesis 3:15).

When Jesus taught His disciples that, “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37), He was undoubtedly asserting that the time preceding His return (i.e., the last days) would be characterized by another angelic incursion upon the earth to produce additional Nephilim, the central figure of which will be the literal seed of Satan, which Scripture most often designates as the Beast, but who is more commonly known today as the Antichrist.

 

Endnotes:

[1] Nephilim is a transliteration of the Hebrew word used in Genesis 6:4, translated “giants” in many English versions. The Nephilim were giants (as tall as cedar trees; cf. Amos 2:9), but their superhuman characteristics included more than their physical stature. The advanced technology that has been discovered to exist in the ancient world, which modern unbelievers are ever so anxious to attribute to aliens, should probably be understood to be accomplishments of the Nephilim.


Signs of the Second Coming

“And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:32-37)

The Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for failing to recognize the signs of His First Coming (Matthew 16:1-3). Obvious signs they should have recognized included: 1) the virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-14), 2) prophesied Messianic miracles (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21), and 3) Daniel’s prophecy of the 69 Weeks which gave the very day Messiah would present himself to Israel (Daniel 9:25; Luke 19:41-44).

During His ministry at His First Coming, Jesus taught there would also be signs that precede His Second Coming (Matthew 24:3ff; Luke 21:25-28). For these signs (Mark 13:4), Jesus commanded us all to “Watch” (Mark 13:32-37).

A new study titled Signs of the Second Coming has been added in the Biblical Studies area.


A Picture of Imminence

“Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord . . . for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh . . . behold [He] standeth before the door. (James 5:7-9).

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines imminent as “ready to take place; especially [as] hanging threateningly over one’s head”.  An imminent event is one that could occur at any moment; it is not, however, an event that is necessarily near, nor one that must occur soon.  In the New Testament, the coming of the Lord is an event that is portrayed as being imminent.  Such a portrayal has led to the recognition that the Rapture of the Church, in which the Lord comes in the clouds to gather believers to Himself and return to heaven (John 14:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), is to be distinguished from the 2nd Coming and must take place before the start of the Tribulation period (i.e., Daniel’s 70th Week, the seven-year period that immediately precedes the 2nd Coming).  The coming of the Lord to rapture the Church is an imminent event; the coming of the Lord to establish His millennial kingdom on earth is not.

Because the New Testament teaches that the coming of the Lord is imminent, the rapture must take place before the Tribulation begins.  The New Testament teaches that the day of the Lord’s coming cannot be predicted (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32) and may happen at any moment (Philippians 4:5; James 5:7-9); for this reason believers are exhorted to be ready and watching for it at all times (Matthew 24:44; Mark 13:33; Luke 12:40; 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 22:20).  This is the precious doctrine of the imminent return of Christ.  Imminency does not mean that the return of the Lord will occur soon, but that it can occur at any time.  Even the Apostle Paul in the first century, when teaching on the rapture, always counted himself as one who would be included in it—he taught (and believed) it could occur during his own lifetime (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

For imminency to be true, there can be no event prophesied in Scripture that must occur before the coming of the Lord.  For this reason, when the New Testament speaks of the imminent coming of the Lord, it cannot have the 2nd Coming of Christ (which happens at the end of the 7-year Tribulation period) in mind.  We are at least seven years away from the 2nd Coming (Daniel 9:27), so there is no sense in which it can be imminent.  Thus, when the New Testament speaks of the imminent coming of the Lord, it must refer to the Lord’s coming to rapture the Church (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17); but the rapture is only imminent if it is to take place before the Tribulation begins.

The picture of the Lord’s coming used by James is that of the Lord standing at the door (James 5:9).  Such a word picture very effectively communicates an important aspect of the rapture; namely, that the event is imminent in the sense that no preceding event has to happen before the rapture can occur.  If I were standing at your door, I could knock on it at any time.  The fact that I am at your doorstep does not mean I will immediately knock on your door, or that I will knock on your door in the next seven seconds, or seven minutes, or seven hours, or seven years, or even during your lifetime, but I could and I might; there is nothing else that has to happen before the conditions are in place for me to knock on your door.  If you know I am on your doorstep, you must live in constant expectation that I might knock on your door at any moment.  Contrast this with your expectation if you (who live in America) knew/believed that I was presently on vacation in Australia.  There is no way I can immediately knock on your door, nor can I do so in the next seven seconds, or seven minutes, or seven hours.  A non-trivial series of events would have to happen first, which takes a finite amount of time, before I can be standing on your doorstep with the possibility of knocking.  This is how believers should understand the coming of the Lord to rapture the Church.  It is an event that is imminent, but not necessarily near.

Many Christians today believe the return of the Lord is drawing near.  Of course, there have been many times in the past when Christians believed the coming of the Lord (i.e., the 2nd Coming) was near, and they were wrong.  As we look back on those times, we realize that it was not correct to say that the Lord’s 2nd Coming was near, since the geopolitical conditions necessary to initiate the Tribulation were not in place.  Nevertheless, the coming of the Lord in the event of the rapture could have taken place at any of those times, since the pre-tribulational view of the rapture recognizes there to be an undefined period of time between the rapture and the start of the seven-year Tribulation period (during which time God could have rapidly moved things into place).

What we observe today is God moving things into place in a more gradual way.  As we see the geopolitical landscape developing precisely as the Bible speaks of the time of the Tribulation period, we have objective reasons to believe that the return of the Lord may indeed be drawing near.  But Daniel’s 70th Week has not yet begun (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3), so the 2nd Coming of Christ cannot take place for at least seven years.  That being said, the conditions appear ripe for the Tribulation countdown to begin.  Knowing that the rapture of the Church will take place before the Tribulation begins, we also realize that the time of the rapture may be very near.  Regardless, the rapture of the Church has always been imminent!


The Book of Daniel: Wisdom for Living in a Pagan Culture

The Book of Daniel is widely regarded as a book of prophecy, indeed the pre-eminent book of prophecy in the Old Testament and perhaps the whole Bible, and it surely contains some of the most detailed prophetic revelation to be found in the Word of God.  The prophecies of Daniel are all the more impressive since many of them have already been remarkably fulfilled in precise, exact, and literal detail, giving clear testimony to Jehovah as the sovereign Creator of the universe, in whose hands history is being providentially guided to His appointed end (Isaiah 46:9-11).  It is for this reason that the Book of Daniel is possibly the greatest offense to the natural man of any portion of the Word of God, and as a result it has been a primary focus of attack by both secular scholars and liberal (so-called) Christianity; in order to deny supernaturalism in general, and the God of the Bible in particular, the Book of Daniel must be destroyed.  Notwithstanding, Daniel is not primarily a book of prophecy; although the Book of Daniel consists of much prophetic material, prophecy is not necessarily its primary purpose.

Daniel’s place in the Hebrew canon is the first clue as to the real purpose of the book.  It resides in the 3rd division of the TNK (i.e., in the Writings, not in the Prophets).  While liberalism has used this fact as a point of attack, asserting that the division of the Writings was the final phase of the Hebrew canon to close and concluding this supports a “late” date for the book, this is a misunderstanding of the three divisions of the TNK.  The three divisions of the TNK were not organized on the basis of chronology, but on the basis of theme or subject matter.  The books that were put into the division of the Writings all speak to the matter of practical living, known technically as wisdom literature.

Certainly, the Book of Daniel presents both a message of comfort and hope to the nation of Israel and a message of rebuke to pagan Gentile nations in a position to oppress the Jews.  Beyond this, however, the Book of Daniel has an important personal application to the individual believer, especially the believer in latter days of the present Christian age.  The Book of Daniel was appropriately placed in the Writings division of the TNK because it was also written to give the individual believer wisdom for living in a pagan and demonized culture.

Remember that Daniel lived and worked as a government official in Babylon and Persia.  Most of the other Old Testament heroes were men who lived inside the nation of Israel under the influence of priests and prophets, in a culture saturated with God’s revelation.  Although the nation often slid into apostasy, the Temple ritual and the Hebrew Scriptures were always present as a restraining influence on the culture.  Not true for Daniel in Babylon/Persia.  Daniel had to stand for the LORD, often alone, in a culture that was completely antagonistic to Biblical truth.  In such a hostile setting, Daniel honored the LORD not by suppressing his faith in his public life, but by aggressively applying the Word of God in every area of his life.  The trend today is an increasing expectation that the believer isolate his Christian faith in a “spiritual” compartment that is only relevant to personal salvation (and perhaps a heavenly afterlife), as if the Word of God had nothing to say about history, science, education, economics, politics, etc.  The life of Daniel stands as a rebuke to that cultural trend!  Daniel’s life is a model for godly living in a pagan culture, which is either ignorant of God’s Word or has consciously rejected it.


The Rapture — A Necessary Inference

With the rise of Dispensationalism in the 19th century, the use of a literal (i.e., grammatical-historical) hermeneutic to interpret Scripture began to be employed in an increasingly consistent manner in all areas of Biblical revelation.  This new (or renewed) consistency in the use of a literal hermeneutic naturally led to new insights in many areas of theology.  As an example, a literal hermeneutic applied to prophetic passages in the New Testament led students of the Bible to conclude that the Rapture of the Church was a phase of the return of Christ that had to be distinguished from the 2nd Coming.  That is, the yet future return of Christ will actually be comprised of two distinct events separated in time:  1) the Rapture of the Church, in which Christ comes in the air to receive His Bride and take her back to heaven with Him (e.g., John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and 2) the 2nd Coming, in which Christ comes from heaven with all His saints to establish His kingdom on this present earth and personally reign over it for a thousand years (e.g., Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19:11-16; 20:4-6).

From its inception the idea that the future return of Christ would be comprised of two phases received two principal criticisms.  First, that there was no place in the New Testament that explicitly taught that there remained two future “comings” of Christ, separated in time; thus, such an understanding was based on inference alone.  Second, that this understanding of the return of Christ was a “new” doctrine; since it had never before been taught or believed by Christians of previous generations (neither the Reformers, nor the Church Fathers before them), it was very unlikely to be true.  These two criticisms will each be briefly addressed.

Regarding the first criticism, it is obvious that nowhere in the New Testament is it explicitly asserted that there remain two future “comings” of Christ.  The understanding that there are to be two comings, a Rapture event that is distinct and separated in time from the 2nd Coming proper, is indeed an inference.  Nevertheless, it is a necessary inference!  A rapture event distinct from the 2nd Coming is a necessary inference from all the New Testament passages regarding the return of Christ, some of which reveal He will come for His saints in the air and return with them to heaven (Rapture), others that He will come with His saints from heaven to the earth (2nd Coming).  There must be two phases to this return, separated in time, since all that is said concerning it cannot be fulfilled in a single event.  This is entirely analogous to the Old Testament passages regarding the Coming of Christ.  Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say that there would be two Comings of Christ (Messiah).  However, revelation is given of Messiah suffering and dying for the nation (e.g., Psalm 22; Isaiah 53), along with revelation of Messiah setting up His kingdom on earth and reigning over it forever (e.g., Psalm 2; Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 14:9).  These two bodies of revelation could not be fulfilled in a single “Coming”, so from the Old Testament perspective it was a necessary inference that Messiah would come twice [1] (i.e., the 1st Coming and the 2nd Coming proper; since the Rapture exclusively pertains to the Church, it was a mystery unrevealed in the Old Testament).

Regarding the second criticism, it is conceded that the notion of a Rapture that is distinct and separated in time from the 2nd Coming was a new understanding that emerged in the 19th century as a result of Dispensational Theology’s emphasis on the use of a literal hermeneutic in prophetic passages of the Bible.  The earlier/classical Dispensationalists, including Darby, Scofield, and Walvoord, were all honest in admitting that Dispensationalism’s doctrine of the Rapture was a new understanding of Scripture not held by the Reformers or Church Fathers [2].  While many today are expending great energy in an attempt to find quotations from early Christian writers that indicate they believed in a Rapture that was distinct from the 2nd Coming, there is no necessity to do so.  Even if a few such genuine quotations are found [3], it will only serve to highlight the truth that Dispensationalism’s doctrine of the Rapture was an extreme, minority view held by virtually no one prior to the modern era.  But this in no way negates the validity of the doctrine.  Remember, the vast majority of Jewish believers failed to properly infer that the Old Testament taught Messiah must come twice, including the disciples of the Lord Himself, for which He rebuked them rather harshly (cf. Luke 24:25-27)!

In summary, Dispensationalism’s doctrine of the Rapture as distinct and separated in time from the 2nd Coming is a necessary inference from Scripture.  The fact that it is an inference in no way relegates it to being a second-class doctrine, nor does it mean that we cannot have full assurance of its certainty.  Furthermore, the fact that this particular doctrinal truth has only been recognized rather late in this present age is not a valid argument against its veracity.  God’s truth has been available on the pages of Scripture from the very moment it was recorded, but as Dr. Hannah notes “it is apparent that doctrinal development has taken place over the centuries and will continue to do so” [4].  Brethren, let’s boldly proclaim the doctrine of the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., the Rapture) as the blessed hope of the Church (Titus 2:13)!

Endnotes:

[1] Some ancient Jewish rabbis, struggling to reconcile these two bodies of revelation regarding Messiah, postulated that there would be two Messiahs, a Messiah “ben Joseph” who would come to die for the nation, and a Messiah “ben David” who would come to reign over the nation.  Obviously this was not correct, but it nevertheless demonstrates their recognition that not all the revelation given in the Old Testament regarding the Coming of Messiah could be fulfilled in a single event.

[2] Although it is generally conceded by virtually all Church historians that the Church was predominantly Premillennial in eschatology for its first three centuries (until Augustine).

[3] Most such quotations that are offered are of a rather vague character, open to various interpretations.

[4] John Hannah, Our Legacy:  The History of Christian Doctrine (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), 27.


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