The Rapture requires no other prophetic event to occur, on the calendar of God’s timetable. It could happen today at 12:05, it could happen tomorrow at 11:57, it could happen next week, next month. Nothing has to happen in Israel, nothing has to happen anywhere. The Rapture can occur anytime.
And when you understand that, it will change how you live, how you believe, and how you behave.
I John tells us that a proper study of prophecy causes us to fix our eyes on the person of Christ and as we do, it is the hope of His return, and the lack of awareness of when it exactly will be, that purifies us because we live thinking, moment by moment, “Maybe today.”
Ryrie goes on to say that not only, then, is the return that is imminent, there’s the resurrection of the dead. Third, there’s the actual rapture of the Church where we meet Jesus in the air and meet our loved ones who have died. Then there is the reunion of believers with Christ and with each other. What a great thought.
People that you love, the people that are in Christ. You know, death isn’t forever, for believers. That’s why He said, “I don’t want you to be ignorant, brethren. I don’t want you to grieve like those who don’t have hope. You grieve but not like those who don’t have hope.” In fact, notice he says there’s reassurance. The reassurance of hope in the face of death.
I told you I did a funeral on Monday. And on the one hand, it was one of the hardest, and on the other, it was one of the easiest. It’s one of the hardest because I knew a lot of the family members and it was very difficult and it was so sudden. Five weeks ago, this man sat in here with you. Five weeks ago. And then he had a little pain. So, a week later, he got it checked. Then, they found out he had cancer. The elders prayed for him. Two weeks later, they’re letting him out of the hospital and giving him a few days to live. Three or four days later, I’m doing his funeral. Bang.
But, you know, the suddenness made it difficult but I was with the family before and after and I saw God buoy them up with grace, I saw faith, I saw people that knew for certain, because of their relationship with Christ, and because of His relationship with Christ, this wasn’t the end. There were tears and there was pain and there was loss, but as his wife said, “We’ll go on. We will go on. We have the Lord, and we’ll see him again.”
Can you say that? Can you say that for you, and can you say that for the people you care most about?
Finally, at the bottom, you see a brief picture that I’m just going to allude to because many of you are going to get excited and I’m glad. And you’re going to think, “You know what? I’ve going to start reading about prophecy and I want to learn about this,” and what you’re going to do is you’re going to go home and you’re thinking, “Prophecy, let’s see, Revelation. I’m going to read Revelation.”
And you’re going to get to about chapter 8 and then you’re going to say, “Man, this is nuts, I don’t understand any of this.” So let me give you the CliffsNotes. Let me just give you the CliffsNotes of the book of Revelation and prophecy.
And there’s much, much more. But here’s the CliffsNotes. You have Christ’s death and resurrection. That was prophesied. And then we have the Church time where we are here. And then what we’ve just talked about. Jesus will come, there will be the Rapture. Notice, He doesn’t come to the earth. We meet Him in the clouds. And then immediately after the Rapture a series of events will happen very quickly.
There will be a peace accord signed in the Middle East that will blow people’s mind. The emergence of the Antichrist will come and there will be such chaos, he’ll promise hope and peace and people will say, “Hey, you know, let’s give this guy the ball.”
He’ll have supernatural powers. And for the first three and half years of the Tribulation it’ll be like, “Hey, this is great.” The Church will have been raptured out and that won’t be done in a secret or in a corner. People will make up all kind of bizarre stories to talk about what happened to those people and why.
Many people will be, like, people maybe even some of you in this room, who understand the story, who said, “I’ll wait until later,” and the Rapture will occur and they will go through the Tribulation and they will trust in Christ during that time.
God says He will send one hundred and forty-four thousand evangelists, Jewish evangelists, because He’s going to go after His people and love them and draw them back.
And then the second half of this three and a half years will be chaos, judgment, wrath like you cannot imagine. So, in that little section where there is the Tribulation between the Rapture and Christ’s return write, “Revelation, R-E-V, period, 6 through 18.” And as you read through that you’ll know, “Oh, that’s what’s occurring here.”
Then Christ’s return, that’s chapter 19. That’s the battle; literally, it’s a war of Armageddon. And then, chapter 20 will talk about the literal thousand-year reign, when Christ is coming back, and He will fulfill every promise that He made to the nation of Israel.
And at the end of that time, there will be one last, sort of, hoopla and you can read about that. And there will be final judgment. And then there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Revelation 20 tells you about that thousand-year reign and then eternity – the new heaven, new earth – is described in chapter 21 and 22.
So, you’ve got the CliffsNotes and so as you read through that will give you some understanding. Now, you’ll still find significant confusion. But this little book, one, I like it because it’s thin. There’s a high correlation between thin books and what gets read. Second, it’s very brief and clear. It’s called, “Come Quickly, Lord Jesus: What You Should Know About the Rapture,” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.
Now, those of you that have been around the block, questions have popped up in your mind, “Don’t some people believe differently about the Rapture and mid and post…?”
Absolutely. All those are covered here. I can’t cover all that. They’re covered clearly, fairly. “Well, what about the Millennial Kingdom and how is that populated?” Covered here. “What about that passage in Revelation 3?” Covered here.
So, what I’d like you to do, if you would like to take the next step, it’s clear, it’s readable, it’s in layman’s language, and we’re out of them but if you want to sign up, we’ll order another shipment. And I would encourage you, this fall, maybe to say, “You know, this is the fall to check out what the Bible really says about the end times.”
So, that’s the overview. Now, fasten your safety belt and let’s turn the page and we want to look at the final portion of Paul’s teaching. Notice, very importantly, that in the NIV the first verse says, “Now.” That’s okay. Good translation. It’s not quite as hard. The word there is, “But.” He’s making a contrast.
He says, “Now,” you know, if you hear it as, “Now,” it’s a great word. If it’s, “But,” see, he’s talked about the Church, he’s talked about the Rapture, he’s talked about the Coming. “But,” now he’s going to shift gears and he says, “I want to talk about the end times in general.”
And in verses 1 through 3 he’s going to teach us, as believers, “We need to warn, we need to warn the people in our relational network and we need to do it by speaking the truth in love.”
And then, in verses 4 through 11, he’s going to come back and say, “We need to not just warn them, we need to win them by, literally, living the truth out in every day life.”
So, let’s look at these three verses and see what he says about not just the Rapture. What he’s going to do is talk about the day of the Lord. And the day of the Lord was prophesied in the Old Testament, so they should know about it.
Isaiah 2, Isaiah 4, Isaiah 12, Joel 1, Amos 5, Zephaniah 1 and 3. The day of the Lord was, I mean, they knew about the day of the Lord. And the day of the Lord, then, was also taught by who? Christ. His disciples asked Him about it, you know, Mark 13, Matthew 24, Matthew 25.
He clearly, they knew. And the apostle Paul taught them when he was with them about the day of the Lord. And the day of the Lord is this time where, historically, there is going to be great judgment followed by great blessing and the day of the Lord, in the New Testament, is always used in reference to, not the Church, but the judgment of the nations.
So, with that, sort of plant it in the back of your mind. Let’s look at the first three verses where we need to warn others. It says, “But,” or, “Now, brethren, about times and dates,” literally about the durations and the characteristics of this whole end time scenario. “About the times and the dates, we don’t need to write you.” Why?
“For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” They know very well, why? Old Testament teaching, teaching of Paul, teaching of Christ.
So, what he’s talking about now is not any mystery, not any new information. He is giving them the big picture. “You know the day of the Lord, when Jesus comes in final judgment, He’s going to come like a thief in the night.”
Verse 3, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly.” And then notice the simile. “As labor pains on a pregnant woman and they will not escape.” That same little double negative, strongest in the New Testament, it’s here. “They, in no way ever, will escape.” It’s very strong.
Now, let’s make three quick observations about those verses. Observation number one: Jesus’ return is certain. He’s saying, “You know, Old Testament, I don’t have to warn you, I don’t have to tell you. It’s going to be like a thief in the night but it is absolutely certain.”
The little picture he gives, you know, a woman who is five, six months pregnant. She may not know the day the baby is coming but she’s real sure something is coming. Right? What she doesn’t know, she’s always semi-unexpected about the specific day. And so that’s how the picture plays out. He says, “Guys, we need to warn people.” Jesus is coming back.
Secondly, Jesus’ return will be unexpected. People will be saying things like “Oh, yeah, I know there’s a crisis in the Middle East but they’ve always had problems. Oh, I know there’s this devastating disease called AIDS but people have always had that. Oh, sure, there’s a few wars and lots more earthquakes and I know there are three or four major, Third World countries that their economy could sink everything and I understand that, you know, Iraq may have nuclear arms and North Korea and whole world could go up in smoke but, see, I try not to think of those things. And besides, the stock market is going up. And my own personal, private, little world seems to be okay.”
Peace, peace, safety. A thinking person, who would study world history, would find the level of devastation, earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, plagues in our day are at an unparalleled level. And only a person in denial, only a person who sticks their head in the sand, only a person who is so defensive about reality that they want to keep God at a distance, can push all that information and all that truth away. A thinking person says, “The world’s got major problems and it could go up in smoke.”
There are idiots and terrorists stealing plutonium, there are countries now with atomic power that we wouldn’t let our children play with, let alone let run a country. And he is saying, “Jesus is coming back. It’s not peace and safety. And when He comes back He is going to surprise a lot of people.” And some of those people are your friends. Some of those people are your family members. And, dare I say, probably in a group this size some of those people are you.
God brought some of you, today, to have a divine appointment. You don’t know Christ as your Savior. You might be a great person, a moral person, a great worker, a good mom, a good dad, a great single person. I’m not saying you’re a bad person. I mean, you’re just one of us. But you don’t know Christ. You haven’t accepted the Lord Jesus, as His sacrificial payment for your sin, and when the Rapture occurs, those who know Him go and those who don’t, don’t. And it is unkind, unloving, and cruel to keep that to yourself.
The worst you’re going to get, if you share it because you really love people, not because you’re going to pigeonhole them, the worst you’re going to get in America, I think, is, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
And the best you’re going to get is like the guy down front right after the Saturday service. What courage. He’s been there, done that, and said, “You know, today is the day for me.” And that’s where some of you are today.
Even as I’m speaking, you know that little uncomfortableness you feel? That, “Eh, eh, eh.” That’s God. You’ve been here before. And He’s speaking to you, He loves you, He wants you to know, “I want you a part of My family,” and this guy walks down front and, I mean, not with a… “Do you think you could help me?” It was like, “Look, buddy, I’ve wrestled with this a long time. This is the day I need to deal with God.” He said, “I’m an alcoholic, and I’m a drug addict, and my life is completely destroyed.” And I stuck out my hand and I said, “Welcome. We have a lot of people here just like you and God has done great things in their life.”
And then I looked over, and there were people on the encouragement team to meet and talk with him. And I got the privilege to walk him over to a guy named Jeff who, three years ago, was an alcoholic, and drug addict, whose life had fallen apart. And I’ve seen the reconstruction process and his face light up, and I saw a man start a new journey with a new God. He was in the process of learning how to get his sins forgiven, find new purpose, find meaning.
Later that night, as he would pray to receive Christ, the Spirit of God is going to come into his life and his old man died; his new man, now united with Christ, resurrected; and a brand new life. And when the Rapture occurs, he’s going because of faith in the grace of God.
And the warning is, “Would you please tell people that?” I mean, you just don’t want to get in a situation where someone says to you, “You knew this story?” “Yeah.” “You didn’t tell me and now it’s too late?”
And then you pull one of mine, because I’ve backed out of this, and you say something that sounds so bad when it comes out loud but it goes in your mind, “Well, I was afraid you wouldn’t like me if I said something. I was afraid you would emotionally reject me.
“I was afraid you might think less of me because I really loved you, I really cared about you, I found ways to serve you, and then, in the most loving, winsome way I could say, ‘These are the claims of Christ. I’m going to be your friend whether or not you accept them. I’m going to be your friend whether you reject them. But I have a moral responsibility to tell you He’s coming. It’s certain. He’s coming unexpectedly.
And, finally, when He comes, it will not be to bless, it will be to judge. And you can either allow Him to be your judge now and let Him judge your sin and place it all on Christ so you come as a son or a daughter. Or you can wait and stiff-arm God and He will be your judge later and every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, and you’ll suffer irreparable damage.’”
We are told, by our Lord, to warn those in this situation.
Let’s flip it over. We’re not only to warn them but we’re to win them. And there’s one major point I want you to get from verse 4 through 11. Simply put, you win them by living a significantly pure life where you live out what you say you believe.
Notice verse 4, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” In other words, “Hey, there’s going to be no surprise for you.”
“You are sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” Now, listen to this, here’s the application, “So then, let us not be like others who are asleep,” this is a different word for, “asleep.” This means moral and spiritual lethargy. It means indifference to spiritual things.
He said, “Let’s not be like them who are asleep but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Alert means to be mentally sharp, spiritually alert, calm, sober-minded. It gives multiple references to an attitude of prayer. So be alert and self-controlled. That Word means, “moral purity.” Be stable. Live a life of holiness, in view of the Lord’s return.
“For those who sleep,” verse 7, “sleep at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.” Contrast. “But since we belong to the day, let us be,” notice the repetition, “self-controlled,” live out this life. This time, it’s in the present tense. Continually be self-controlled. At home, be self-controlled. How? By the grace of God. At work, be self-controlled.
Specifically, how do you do it? He tells us: “Putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” That’s in a tense of the verb that means, “Do it once and for all!” Put on a breastplate of faith, trust God, accept His love, and be loving toward others and have the security of your life, the helmet, your thinking, by the hope of salvation.
And it’s of a soldier. It means be not like a soldier asleep. Be alert. Be strong. Be ready. Go into your world and to your relational network and exhibit faith and love and hope in such a way where people say, “Hey, man, how in the world do you do it? You got three kids; you’re under such pressure. How does your life work? Your wife walked out on you, your husband walked out on you, that boss treats you terrible. I don’t know how you make it on what you live on. There’s something different about you.” “Yeah, it’s Christ.”
See, we’re to win the world by living a winsome, God-empowered, grace oriented life. He gives the reason: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath.” God’s will isn’t that we’re involved when the wrath occurs. “But to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And then, notice verse 10, what a line: “He died for us.” The little word, “for” means, “on our behalf and in our place.” He died for us. Just let it sink in, okay? He died for, you put your name it. He died for you. He died for me.
And this idea isn’t just some man, fully God, fully man died somewhere historically. The idea is every sin, every shameful thing, everything in your closet and mine, He died in your place. God judged that sin, when Jesus died on the cross, and all that you’ve done, all that I’ve done, all that anyone has done was poured out on Christ and He is our sin substitute.
He died for us, in our place. He’s the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. You know what your responsibility is? To receive Him. To turn to Him. To lift the empty hands of faith and say, “God, I need You.”
Now notice why He died for you. This is so great. “So that whether we are awake,” alive, “or asleep,” dead, “we may live together with Him.” I don’t know your background, my background in church was so terrible. I never had any idea that God wanted a relationship with me.
Jesus died on the cross isn’t some little thing to sing. He died on the cross because you matter. Everyone in here. You matter! He loves you! He understands your hurt, He understands your pain, He understands where you’ve been, He understands your baggage and you know what He’s saying? “Come to me. Come to Me today. Let Me love you. Let Me forgive you. Join My family. Let Me cleanse you. Let Me take the deepest wounds and hurts. I’ll be the dad you never had. I’ll be the mom you never had. I’ll be the mate that left you. I’ll be the person you’ve been searching for. I’ll, but whatever you think success or money or anything is going to get you, I’ll be that. I am God and you matter to Me. I died for you because I want a relationship.”
He doesn’t want to give you a list of dos and don’ts and duties and how many things you’re supposed to go to. He wants to bring you into a loving relationship with Him, and your service to Him will flow out of gratitude and life and love.
And then He tells us, “Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, just as in fact you are.”