Certain questions among believers have been with us since the Lord’s departure and his promise to return. Some of the questions are why denominations and sects have arisen, but when they are not questions having to do with salvation through Christ’s finished work we must approach with caution.
The Rapture Controversy – Are We Asking the Wrong Question?
All three views of the rapture come with their own Biblical proof texts and separate arguments. When all the input is taken in to account one thing emerges beyond doubt; most Christians believe in a pre-tribulation rapture.
Those who think we will not be taken up by the Lord until halfway through the last seven year dispensation of the antichrist make up roughly a quarter of all believers. About three quarters are pre-tribulationists and a very small number are post trib. There is no scientific poll from which to be sure of these estimates, but few would argue against them.
While a post-trib seems unlikely, those who hold to this view have perhaps the strongest proof text of all, to wit:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mt 24: 29-32)
The sequence here is simple. First we see a tribulation period that comes and completely finishes. Second is a gathering of his people from every corner of the world. This one verse we may say does rings around any attempt to place the church in the book of Revelation as here, then gone, especially since silence about something has less of a chance to be properly interpreted than an actual statement made by the Lord Jesus Christ.
To gather meanings from the silence of passages is called an ‘interpolation.’ Better exegesis is to interpret only what is said and not what may, or may not be, inferred by silence.
Just like not knowing the day or the hour of Christ’s return, knowing the time and sequence of the rapture in proximity to unfolding events remains a conjectural matter at best. This writer hopes the pre-tribs’ are right, but I will not teach nor hold close to my heart this viewpoint for reasons that are very easily understood.
I firmly believe that this view is too easily accepted for all the wrong reasons. Rather than arguing one proof text against another it is apparent that we are raising the wrong question entirely.
We should be asking this question, but leaving the actual timing of the event in the omniscient and loving hands of our Savior. The question is simply stated, and has but one answer.
Which rapture view will put the believer in the very best state of preparedness?
Those who are suffering and dying in more than fifty countries around the world have already asked and answered the question. The escape hatch mentality of the pre-tribulation theology sells well in the West, but is generally considered an error by most of the believers throughout the rest of this world, especially those who are facing persecution, arrest torture and death on a daily basis.
The Missing Temple – When will it be built?
Just like the rapture question the building of a temple in Jerusalem for the Jews to begin worship and sacrifice is a foregone. But when will it be built.
Every sign of the last days is being brought into view in this generation, but the missing piece of the eschatological puzzle remains just out of sight. If we refer to charts and outlines of the best biblical exegetes and expositors we generally see it put in a very specific place in their timelines and calculations.
Almost none of them have considered the conditions that lead up to and fully precipitate the building of the temple. In today’s climate of anti-Semitism and Muslim hatred of the Jews just how far would they get if they chose to start building today?
The building of a temple could trigger a world war in this climate, but these conditions are carefully predicted to change in two ways. After these changes are in place the most propitious moment in history will emerge as the right time to build.
First is the rise of the antichrist. He will make an agreement with the Jews to protect and defend them. Under the umbrella of this short lived promise of protection the stage will be set.
The second and more important factor will be the destruction of all the Muslim armies conjoined in a last ditch coalition of united Arabs, perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood, with a great Northern army. (Russia) They will surround Israel, but will fall completely. The Prophet Ezekiel paints the picture of the might of Israel’s enemies being broken at once and completely. (Ezekiel 37 and 38)
With her closest enemies destroyed the door will be opened for the fulfillment of their dreams to build a Temple to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. With the power of the Muslim forces decimated the fear of being interrupted will be gone.
Modern construction engineering techniques and pre-stockpiled materials could raise a temple in very short time, without starting world war three.
Will the antichrist be a Muslim or the Muslim Mahdi?
Prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 most westerners knew little to nothing of the Muslim religion and even less of the predictions of the Mahdi. Not all sects of Muslims believe in the coming of the Mahdi, but to those that do, he is seen as the single ruler who will bring the entire world into harmony with Islam.
Essentially the idea that the antichrist will actually be the Muslim Mahdi is strictly a doctrinal new kid on the block. It is an idea that is fraught with problems and virtually no scriptural support.
Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that he came in his Father’s name and they wouldn’t receive him, but he added that another would come in his own name and they would receive him. (Jn 5: 43) It is generally thought that he was speaking of the antichrist. That the Jews will receive a man who comes in his own name is possible, but when it comes to their long awaited Messiah one thing they will never do is accept anyone as Messiah - who is not Jewish.
For the Muslims any man presenting himself as the Mahdi would not do so in a Jewish temple – he would be defiled and instantly discredited for that absurd act. If he showed up in a Muslim Holy place he may stand a chance. Both the Prophet Daniel and Jesus said antichrist will present himself in the temple as if he were God. It is called the ‘abomination of desolation’ and it is the final act of rebellion against God and brings terrible judgments to the earth. (Mt 24: 15)
After the destruction of the Muslim armies across the hills of Israel what would the Muslim Mahdi have as a power base or a backup to his claim of world leadership; he would have nothing.
The Jews will reject a Muslim Messiah and the Muslims will reject a Mahdi who presents himself in a Jewish temple. So where do we go from here.
In fact antichrist rejects the God of his father’s and doesn’t regard any god, but makes himself as God. This is a deal breaker for both Jew and Muslim.
“Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” (Da 11: 37)
The Bible is clear; antichrist emerges out of the kingdom that rules the earth in the last days of time. The E.U is the only kingdom that is re-emerging as a world power in the same general geographical boundaries as the old Roman Empire. Could a Muslim actually be granted the highest place of authority in that realm – perhaps, but you may not want to hold your breath for that picture to emerge.
Presume Nothing – Ponder Everything
The great rule of good Bible interpretation is – ‘if it makes plain sense – seek no other sense.’ Using this rule can keep us on track and far away from over postulation and speculation that leads to confusion. But honestly, what happens when you come to the verse that does not make plain sense?
The best rule for such cases is given to us by example. When Mary the mother of Jesus was told that she, as a virgin, would conceive a child after being overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, how could she have possibly comprehended that declaration? Prophets are told that God will speak to them, the sick and infirmed were told that Jesus prayer would restore their ailing bodies.
But one humble Jewish girl without any knowledge of the complexities of DNA much less what it was to be intimate with a man was asked to believe that God was about to circumvent every speck of limited knowledge she did possess and produce a fertilized egg in her body which would result in the Savior of the world. How did Mary digest and assimilate this incredible message, and the subsequent affirmations given to her of this miracle by the angels and shepherds who attested to it, how did she interpret it?
Here is what is most amazing, she didn’t interpret it – she ‘pondered’ it!
“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2: 19)
Copyright ©2013 Rev. Michael Bresciani