Jesus

Is Belief in the Rapture Relatively New?

Is Belief in the Rapture Relatively New?

Those who oppose our beliefs in a pretribulation rapture fill up social media and the Internet with stories mocking the rapture as something no one believed until the nineteenth century. They discredit it based on its recent appearance in the life of the church.

So, is our belief in the rapture relatively new in church history? No, absolutely not! As will see in the following sections, saints in the early days of the church looked for Jesus’ appearing to take away His church ahead of a time of tribulation on the earth. The doctrine existed long before people began calling it “the rapture” during the 1800’s.

God's Steadfast Love

God's Steadfast Love

Through all the ups and downs of my life, these words from Lamentations 3:22-25 have remained dear to my heart, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . . The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”

The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” is chesed. You might see it translated “lovingkindness” or just “kindness” in other versions. It’s difficult for one English word or phrase to capture its total meaning in the original. In Scripture,

A Man, a Wheelchair, and Overflowing Joy

A Man, a Wheelchair, and Overflowing Joy

He was perhaps the most joyous and Spirit-filled believer I had seen up to that point in my life. Though it was decades ago, I remember the joy that beamed from Paul Lundgren’s face as he sang.

I also recall the sight of Paul, bound to his wheelchair, sitting on the platform at my church. A traffic accident while delivering a piano had left him paralyzed from waist down. This did not deter him, however, from singing and talking about his expectation of walking on streets of gold.

The Wrath of the Lamb

The Wrath of the Lamb

When John the Baptist saw Jesus he exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Indeed, Jesus was the ultimate Passover Lamb whose sacrifice paid the debt of our sins.

Peter put it this way, “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

But who ever heard of “The Wrath of the Lamb?” Does this not sound like the strangest oxymoron you have ever heard? Although unusual, we do see this description of Jesus in the Bible.

Are You Ready for the Coming Tsunami?

Are You Ready for the Coming Tsunami?

On September 28, 2018, many residents of Palu, Indonesia gathered on the beach to celebrate the town’s anniversary. Despite the rumblings of earthquakes, it seemed like a normal day to the people joining in the happy festivities.

Due to a failure in the tsunami warning system, the people on the beach were unaware that a tidal wave at least ten feet high was headed their direction at a speed of 500 miles per hour.

Jesus compared His appearing to the days of Noah and issued this warning along with that, “and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:39). Do you see why the tsunami is an apt picture of Jesus’ words about the last days?

Life's Illusions

Life's Illusions

If you have followed the news regarding Brett Kavanaugh Senate hearings, you likely feel the same frustrations I do. The false accusation of a woman, who has no proof whatsoever of her claims, could derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court.

It feels as though the wrong is winning and perhaps for a moment it is. However, Scripture tells me that any success that some may have in discrediting Kavanaugh is not the end of the story. God will have the final say in the matter.

3 Reasons Satan Hates Heaven

3 Reasons Satan Hates Heaven

If there’s anything has shocked me since I started writing about prophecy, it’s the large number of Bible teachers and Christian authors who relegate the entire book of Revelation to the past or else regard it as an allegory meant exclusively for first century believers.

So why do so many today put the fulfillment of the eternal state in past either historically or symbolically?

I believe it’s because Satan hates the idea of heaven (i.e. the new earth and New Jerusalem) and does all he can to discredit any teaching that regards Revelation 21-22 as literal future prophecy. He’s our enemy and as such loves to rip away our fondest hopes!

What Were The Disciples Thinking?

What Were The Disciples Thinking?

In November of 1943, the USS Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a meeting with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill to discuss future plans regarding WW II. Somehow the crew of a nearby ship, the USS William D. Porter, mistook the USS Iowa for a German ship and fired a torpedo at it. Fortunately, the missile missed its target and the President continued safely to his summit. Although we do not know all the details that led to this error, we are still left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

At first glance, we might also ask this question in regard to a question the disciples posed to Jesus just moments before He ascended into heaven, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

5 Key Errors of Preterism

5 Key Errors of Preterism

Why am I writing about preterists? It’s because their beliefs are growing in popularity and causing much harm in the body of Christ! My purpose is to point out the errors of this false teaching.

Preterists teach that all biblical prophecy has been fulfilled; this includes Matthew 24 as well as the entire book of Revelation. They claim all these things happened before and during AD 70 when Titus and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. They believe Jesus returned as the city fell thus fulfilling His promise to return to the earth.

Where's God?

Where's God?

I’m deeply grieved by what I see today. I fully realize that evil has existed since the Garden of Eden and I also know that past civilizations have exhibited the same wickedness, or worse, before their demise.

If you are like me, however, you sometimes wonder, “Where’s God in all the violence and evil around us? Does He not see the ever increasing wickedness and violence?”

The Lord responded by turning my attention to the book of Habakkuk, named after a prophet who ministered in Judah shortly before Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and took the people captive.

Should We Still Be Watching?

Should We Still Be Watching?

Most people disdain the whole idea; many Christians regard it as an out of date belief.

“Who really believes in the Rapture anyway?” some ask. “Why should I put my hope in something that no one believed until the nineteenth century? Why would anyone look for something that only recently appeared in the long history of the church?”

3 Truths to Remember When Others Accuse Us

3 Truths to Remember When Others Accuse Us

What can we do when hurt by the slander of others? We can rest in God’s “steadfast love” for us knowing that He sees what we are going through; we can trust Him to defend us in His time.
Until then, the Psalmist says to “Be strong, and let your heart take courage.” So hang in there! The Lord’s love will not fail us regardless of what others say about us or do to us.

The Rapture, What’s to Fear? Part 4: The Comfort

The Rapture, What’s to Fear? Part 4: The Comfort

The brides of Jesus’ day did not fear the arrival of the bridegroom. The bride looked forward with much anticipation to the surprise return of her bridegroom; this was an expected and exciting part of the wedding festivities. It brought great joy to the bride as she eagerly awaited the groom’s arrival to abduct her and take her to the place he had prepared especially for her.

Jesus is now preparing a place especially for us. Many neglect to emphasize this wonderful truth when teaching about the rapture. We can be sure this place will be astonishing beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus is designing and preparing it with our specific needs and desires in mind.

The Rapture, What’s to Fear? Part 3: The Joy of Jesus' Return

The Rapture, What’s to Fear? Part 3: The Joy of Jesus' Return

Weddings are typically times of excitement to which both the future husband and wife joyously anticipate.

I believe this is why Jesus used words reminiscent of the first century AD Jewish wedding customs when He first mentioned His return to take believers back to His Father’s house, known today as the rapture (see John 14:1-3). His announcement would have sparked positive and hopeful comparisons to the disciples as they listened to Him that night in the Upper Room.

. . . . Someday, perhaps soon, the Father will tell his Son to go get his bride, to go get us! What a day of rejoicing that will be for us!!

The Rapture, What’s to Fear? Part 2: The Marriage Covenant

The Rapture, What’s to Fear? Part 2: The Marriage Covenant

While in college at John Brown University, I read Hal Lindsey's book The Late Great Planet Earth. His book greatly heightened my interest in prophecy to the point where I expected the rapture to occur at any moment, yes even way back in the 1970’s.

Late one afternoon I dozed off after hours of reading and studying. Suddenly, the sound of a trumpet awoke me from a deep sleep. For a moment, I thought “this is it; I am going to meet Jesus in the air.” After a second or two I realized the trumpet fanfare came from someone warming up for a nearby rehearsal. It was not the trumpet sound of 1 Thessalonians 4, which still remains a joyous future hope for all of Jesus' followers.

However, I know many people today do not take kindly to the idea of the rapture. They either fear it or disdain it for a variety of reasons. It’s certainly a source of unpopularity for those who teach or write about it; I know this from experience.

The Rapture, What's to Fear? Part 1

The Rapture, What's to Fear? Part 1

As his wife and those closest to him gathered around his bedside one evening, they believed this would be the last time they would see him in this life. Louis Talbot, the longtime president of Biola University and driving force behind the formation of Talbot Theological Seminary, was in the hospital suffering from pneumonia. Many in the room, including Carol his wife, believed he would not survive the night.

Seeing the tears stream down the face of his wife, Talbot responded with these words, “What’s the matter with you? For this I was born. For this I’ve lived all my life—to see my Savior face to face. It will be all glory. I can hardly wait.”

Blue Jeans and Storybook Expectations

Blue Jeans and Storybook Expectations

When I was high school (1967-1971), the dress code at my school prohibited blue jeans. While I didn’t mind the restriction that much at the time, I know that many of my classmates longed for greater freedom and what they could wear.

A couple years after graduation, I returned to the school to visit my former band director. By then the dress code had changed and every student I saw at the school was wearing blue jeans. It was almost as if the written code had been replaced with an unwritten one that necessitated jeans.

3 Promises of the Father to the Son

3 Promises of the Father to the Son

In Psalm 2, we read that the Father promises the Son all the nations of the world as his “heritage.” Verse 7 says, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’” The Father thus pledges to give the nations of the world to His Son as His inheritance.

Is it even within the realm of possibility that the Father would renege on a promise to his Son such as we find in Psalm 2? Absolutely not, it’s totally absurd to even think of such an occurrence! The Father will keep His promise of giving His Son the nations of the world as His inheritance.

Outliers and Me

Outliers and Me

What we hear instead of watchfulness for Jesus’ appearing is that the church must be about fulfilling the Great Commission as though that excludes teaching about the rapture, the coming tribulation, the Second Coming, or the millennial kingdom.

I believe Jesus regarded His command to preach the Gospel as inseparably intertwined with watchfulness for His return. Let me explain why.

The Reformation and the Gospel

Luther 95 Theses This coming October 31st marks the five hundred year anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. These 95 Theses became the foundation of the Protestant Reformation, which for many restored the biblical ideal of justification by faith and thereby the purity of the Gospel message.

Earlier in 1517, a friar by the name of Johann Tetzel began selling indulgences in Germany as a mean to raise funds for the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. By purchasing an indulgence, one could gain the release of a sinner from purgatory or help ensure one’s own salvation. For example, if someone suspected that Uncle Joe was not quite ready for heaven when he died, dropping several coins into the box carried around by Tetzel would remedy that situation by instantly delivering Uncle Joe from purgatory into heaven.

Luther condemned this practice of indulgences, the subject of several of his 95 Theses. It’s easy to see why he objected to such manipulation of the people.

Justification by Grace Along with Works

In the Roman Catholic Church of Luther’s day, justification had become a lifelong process through which one received grace through the church and its sacraments that enabled him or her to do the good works necessary for salvation.

Can you see how such teaching would create much uncertainty regarding one’s final status before God? How could anyone know if they had been faithful enough in avoiding sins so that God would pronounce them righteous or justified at the end of their life?

The priests of Luther's day must have dreaded seeing him walk into their confessional booths.

This is why young Luther spent hours at a time confessing his sins to a priest. He believed that getting into heaven that he confess all his sins and live as good a life as possible. As a result, he meticulously and fervently confessed everything he thought might even possibly be a sin. The priests of Luther's day must have dreaded seeing him walk into their confessional booths.

Justification by Faith Alone

As Luther studied Scripture, he realized that God did not base our salvation on a combination of grace and personal merit. He saw that our justification, or our righteous standing before God, did not result from a lifelong process of resisting sin and doing good works, but rather took place the moment we place our faith in Jesus.

The word the Apostle Paul used for justification denoted a judge in his day pronouncing a not guilty verdict upon the accused person standing before him. Sinners, like the person standing trial, are declared righteous once and for all time. It's not something that happens over time.

Justification takes place the instant we call out to the Lord in saving faith, not at the end of our lives. In Romans 5:1, Paul says “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Our right relationship with God comes instantly; He declares us righteous the moment we believe.

The Apostle Paul often emphasized that God saves us totally by grace through faith apart from any merit of our own (see Titus 3:4-7 and Eph. 2:8-9). Good works come after our adoption into God's family, not before.

Luther based his revolutionary teaching at the time solely on Scripture. An allegorical interpretation of God’s Word had begun centuries earlier as a way for some to view Old Testament prophecy symbolically. As a result, those who interpreted the Bible in such a way viewed the Old Testament promises of a kingdom for Israel as something the church fulfilled spiritually.

Unfortunately, this allegorical way of understanding Scripture later eroded the purity of the Gospel as it opened the door for church tradition to contaminate biblical beliefs, especially those pertaining to salvation.

A Literal Interpretation of Scripture

Both Luther and John Calvin condemned such allegorical interpretations and the adding of human tradition to the teaching of Scripture. They brought their followers back to a literal way of interpreting God’s Word through two key principles.

The elevation of the Bible as supreme in all matters of faith became a key factor in restoring the sound scriptural teaching of justification by faith apart from good works.

The first such principle was that of “sola Scriptura.” This signifies that Scripture alone is our sole source and supreme authority when it comes to all matters pertaining to faith and practice. For the reformers, this meant that the Bible was sufficient for all spiritual matters and thus took precedence over all the traditions of the church and the teachings of all previous popes.

This elevation of the Bible as supreme in all matters of faith became a key factor in restoring the sound scriptural teaching of justification by faith apart from good works.

Secondly, Luther emphasized “Scripture interprets Scripture” as essential for interpreting the Bible. This precept stresses that all of Scripture is God’s Word and as such does not and cannot contradict itself. Scripture thus acts as its own commentary.

A section of the Bible where the meaning is clear can and must be used to interpret a related section of Scripture where the interpretation is less evident or open to several differences of opinion.

These principles of interpretation advocated by Martin Luther and the other Reformers forever changed the course of church history and remain the standard for biblical interpretation for most Protestant churches today.

These two principles of interpreting Scripture in a literal way had another significant long-term impact on the teaching of the church, one that did not appear until well after the time of the Reformers. This later result of interpreting Scripture literally will be the topic of my next article celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.

Can anyone guess what this future impact might be?