Monday, December 12, 2016

COUNTING THE YEARS A Study of Daniel 9:24-27 (Part 2)

Counting and naming all the multiplied trillions of stars is something that God has done (Psa. 147:4). Known to God are the total number of hairs on all of our heads (Matt. 10:30). The detailed structure of the universe reflects mathematics everywhere which in turn points to intelligent design; that of our all-knowing Creator God. God is certainly the greatest mathematician of all. So, we should not be surprised that when He speaks of numbers related to the future, that these numbers are precise and not vague abstractions which are left to our imaginations to decipher. God sent Gabriel to Daniel to let him know that God was going to have 490 years of special dealing with the nation of Israel. We continue our study of the “70 Weeks Prophecy.”

A Review of the Last Study. There were three important interpretive truths found in Daniel 9:24. First, the prophecy is about Daniel’s people (Israel) and Daniel’s land (Israel), and not about the gentiles or the church. Second, the “70 weeks” are actually “70 units of seven”, or 490. The context points to this being 490 years. Third, these 490 years have been carved out of the times of the gentiles, but when they are completed, God six specific goals will be accomplished.

God’s Six Goals for the 490 Years. When the 490 years have come to a completion, six specific things will be accomplished. The first three goals were accomplished by Christ’s work on the cross. However, these three goals (which relate to the New Covenant) have not yet been applied to the nation of Israel. The stated six goals are the subject of this article.

(1) THE TRANSGRESSION WILL BE FINISHED. The first divine goal of the 490 years will be to bring to completion the transgression (Heb. pesha) of Israel. This word “transgression” focuses on the deliberate rebellion and apostasy of Israel and it is declared that this will be brought to an end. The definite article is used so that it is not just Israel’s rebellion generally in view, but the rebellion of the nation. What must be in view here is Israel’s rebellion as it was manifested in their greatest rejection in the nation’s history; that of rejecting the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. This is the rebellious act of Israel that will be brought to an end within the Seventy Weeks.

In order for the Messiah to return and for His kingdom to be established, Israel must turn in faith to Him. Jesus declared that the one thing that must be true before He would return is the change in Israel related to their view of Him.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. (Matt. 23:37-39)
Israel’s rejection of their Messiah will be over and Israel will be restored. This is integral to God’s overall plans for this earth.

(2) TO MAKE AN END OF SIN. In this goal of God, the idea appears to be that sin generally will be brought into judgment and forgiveness granted. Israel, whose national life had been so characterized by its waywardness, will now live apart from sin. Their sins have been judged and they have been forgiven. So the vain, purposeless life lived by Israel when they walked far from God will be over. There will be a new spirit in Israel, a new attitude towards sin and righteousness. This reality will be in place as the Seventy Weeks concludes.

(3) TO MAKE ATONEMENT FOR INIQUITY. The third purpose of the Seventy Weeks is to deal with the sin issue by making atonement for it. This is looking at the cross of Jesus Christ, since it is the only thing that takes care of sin. It is the cross alone that makes it possible for anyone to be reconciled to God whether gentile or Israelite (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17-21). The great purpose of Daniel’s Seventieth week is to bring Israel to the point where they repent and embrace the salvation that is provided by their Messiah, Jesus. The complete payment for sin was in the past at the cross, but it will be in the future that the payment will be applied to Israel (cf. Zech. 12:10; 13:1; Isa. 59:20-21; Ezek. 36:25-27; Jer. 31:31-34).

(4) TO BRING IN EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS. The first three goals deal with the negative issue of sin and how sin, particularly Israel’s sin, will be dealt with and removed. The next three goals relate to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom, which was spoken of earlier by Daniel, in Daniel 2 and 7.

According to the Old Testament prophets, one of the marvelous characteristics of the Messiah’s kingdom is that of righteousness (cf. Isa. 11:2-5; Jer. 23:3-6). Righteousness, not sin, will prevail in the realm of mankind and therefore, in the nations of the earth. This will be a time unlike any other. There has never been in Israel, or anywhere else on earth since the fall, the domination of righteousness. While the believer is certainly to be considered “righteous” today because of justification, this goal of God finds it ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah’s kingdom when Daniel’s people will live righteously and Daniel’s land will be characterized by righteousness (cf. Isa.1:26; Jer. 33:14-16). A time of righteousness is clearly in view in this passage.

One of the very real problems for those who see Christ’s kingdom being established at His first coming (amillennialism and postmillennialism) is the obvious absence of righteousness in the world today. If this “everlasting righteousness” came into the world at Christ’s first coming, where is it? It is evident that the nations of the world are not affected by it. Unrighteousness is what characterizes this world as it remains under the domination of the “god of this world”, Satan. The lack of righteousness in the world today speaks loudly against the notion that Christ established His kingdom at His first coming.

(5) TO SEAL UP VISION AND PROPHECY. The term “seal up” “indicates a complete fulfillment of all prophecy” coupled with the idea that there will be no additional prophetic information given. With the Lord Jesus present in all His glory, the forever kingdom of God established and the earth reclaimed from the usurper, Satan, prophecy is seen as completely fulfilled. Those who live at that time will recognize that all has been fulfilled. There will be no need for people to have prophetic visions or for God, who will then dwell among believers, to give revelation.

(6) TO ANOINT THE MOST HOLY. While some have suggested that this refers to the anointing of the Lord Jesus, others have observed that the expression is never used of a person but rather it is the anointing of the Holy of Holies in the new millennial temple. The term being used is qodes qodasim which is frequently used in reference to the Holy of Holies. It seems best to understand this anointing as the setting apart of the millennial temple for the ministry to which it was ordained.

These six goals simply have not, in some cases, been fully fulfilled; and in other cases, have not been fulfilled at all. But these six specific goals that God Himself has made will be fulfilled and must be fulfilled. The coming period of tribulation will bring all of these goals to a final and full completion. The coming time of tribulation will indeed be the worst of times, but the best of times as well. It is a comfort to believers today to realize that this world remains under the control of the sovereign God. Men, nations and demons cannot derail God’s planned purposes. And when the birth pains of the tribulation are over, then the kingdom of Messiah Jesus will be born; an incredible era characterized by righteousness, joy, peace and the very presence of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ. Our best days, and earth’s best days, lie ahead of us.

Monday, November 14, 2016

COUNTING THE YEARS - A Study of Daniel 9:24-27 (Part 1)

Critical. Essential. Uniquely important. Highly significant. All these words, and more, describe the place that Daniel 9:24-27 has in one’s understanding of end time events. These four verses contain an amazing wealth of information. The chronological structure provided by this prophecy becomes the basis of our seeing accurately numerous other prophecies, as well as giving a chronological framework for the last days of man on this earth. The Book of Revelation rests squarely on this prophecy of the “seventy weeks” . Since the details of this prophetic portion are so very important, we are going to take several studies in it. For some this may be a new area of investigation which ought to prove helpful in developing a solid biblical understanding of end time events. For others it is familiar ground, but as the Apostle Peter stated, it is good to stir up our minds by way of remembrance.

The Setting of the Prophecy

Daniel’s Scripture Reading. The prophet Jeremiah twice declared that the Babylonian captivity would last for 70 years (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). While personally experiencing that Babylonian captivity, Daniel was motivated to pray as a result of reading from the Prophet. At that point in time, it was about year #68 of the 70 years, and it seemed to Daniel that nothing was happening as far as Israel’s return to the land was concerned. And there were only two more years to go!

Daniel’s Passionate Prayer. Daniel’s prayer (9:3-19) began with confession of sin. Using a variety of words for sin, he acknowledged that Israel stood guilty and condemned for their unrighteousness. He further acknowledged that God was perfectly righteous in disciplining them by sending them into captivity. But he also noted that because God was righteous, He had to fulfill His promise to restore them back to the land (9:17-19). And so, Daniel passionately prayed that God would now move to do what He promised because His holy name was at stake. God’s reputation would be sullied if He did not fulfill His promises. And then, to be very specific, Daniel again and again (9:16-19) focused on two things in his prayer: Israel, the people and Israel, the land (holy city/temple). These two were the objects of Daniel’s prayer. It is important to note that Daniel was not praying for the church nor was he praying for the gentile nations. The people of Israel and the land of Israel were the subjects of his praying. And when the messenger angel Gabriel was sent in response to Daniel’s prayer, he gave Daniel information concerning those same two subjects. The subjects of Daniel’s prayer is a pretty obvious matter when the text is read carefully, but it is nevertheless critical in one’s interpretation of the “seventy weeks” prophecy. The “seventy weeks” have to do with Daniel’s people and Daniel’s land (holy city).

The Beginning of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy

Three important interpretive matters are found in 9:24 , the first verse of the prophecy. First, the angel Gabriel revealed that he had come to answer Daniel’s prayer concerning the people and land (holy city/temple) of Israel. Gabriel stated the coming seventy weeks concern “your people and your holy city” . So once again, the content of the prophecy has to do with Israel and not the gentiles or the church.

Second, Gabriel said that “seventy weeks have been decreed” . Two points need clarification. The word translated “decreed” means “to cut off” or “to determine”. Daniel was being told that seventy weeks have been “cut off/out” from the times of the gentiles. When this time has been concluded, God will finally and completely restore Israel and establish the kingdom of Messiah. This will be explained in 9:24 as God’s six goals for this period of time are set forth.

When Gabriel said that “seventy weeks have been decreed” , the main interpretive concern is what he meant by the phrase “seventy weeks.” The term “week” is somewhat unfortunate since we usually think of a week as being 7 days. However, the Hebrew word in the text (shavuim) simply has reference to a unit of seven. So seventy units of seven (or 490) have been determined for Israel. It is the context in which the word is found that points to the meaning. This is much like the English word “dozen”, which is a unit of measurement indicating twelve of something. If I were to say, “I have a dozen”, the listener would only know that I had twelve of something but would not know exactly what I possessed. But if our conversation had been about red pens, then the listener would know (in the context of our conversation) that I had twelve red pens. So the context of Daniel determines the exact meaning of “seventy sevens.” And the context brings us to the conclusion that it is seventy sevens of years (490 years) that is being spoken of. So God is informing Daniel that He will have 490 years of special dealings with Israel, at the end of which, He will accomplish His six goals. There are several reasons why we believe that years are being talked about.

(1) It agreed by nearly everyone that the prophecy could not be speaking of 490 days, since in this prophecy Jerusalem must be built, destroyed and rebuilt again. This simply could be accomplished in a little over a year much less have all the other details of the prophecy come to pass.

(2) In the context of the prophecy, Daniel had been thinking about years as he contemplated Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years. He knew that in just about two years the Babylonian captivity would be over. His thoughts, therefore, are not about days but about years.

(3) Israel’s captivity was based on their violation of the Sabbath year law (see 2 Chron. 36:21). It is likely that Israel’s violations in years would be matched in years by their ultimate restoration.

(4) Daniel used the unit of “sevens” in one other place in his book (10:2-3). There he related that he had been fasting for three units of sevens, but carefully added the fact that is was units of days. It is apparent that Daniel adds “days” to the phrase because he did not want his readers to think of the unit of seven in chapter 10 was the same as that in chapter 9.

(5) The final week (the 70th) aligns well with other scriptures if it is seen to be a period of seven years. The final “week” (the 70th) begins with the signing of a covenant. This covenant is broken half way through the week (or 3 ½ years into the time of trouble--the 70th week in this prophecy). It is at that time that the great tribulation comes on Israel. If years are involved then it means that 3 ½ years into the final week, an unprecedented time of trouble and desolation comes on Israel and the world. In the Book of Revelation, John speaks of this period of 3 ½ years as “forty-two months” and “1260 days”, and by so doing, points to the “week” of Daniel as being a period of seven years.

So the evidence is compelling that this prophecy is about 490 years of God’s special dealings with Israel which will result in their restoration back to the Lord and the long awaited arrival of Messiah’s kingdom.

The third significant interpretive matter found in 9:24 are the six goals of God. When the 490 years are concluded God will have: (1) finish the transgression; (2) make an end of sin; (3) make atonement for iniquity; (4) bring in everlasting righteousness; (5) seal up vision and prophecy; and (6) anoint the most holy place. These goals and their fulfillment will be part of the discussion in the next article.

When we see such a prophecy as this one and come to understand its meaning and significance, we come away realizing that God’s plan is very specific. But even more, it will be fulfilled because, as Daniel observed, God’s reputation is at stake in all of this. So even though events in our world appear to be spiraling out of control, and there is no one at the controls, the truth is God’s purposes are clear and His timing is impeccable for fulfilling those purposes. He will accomplish all six of His goals. He will end the dominion of Satan and evil men. He will establish the long awaited kingdom of Jesus Messiah.

We see our world on the decline morally and spiritually, and mankind seems so indifferent to the true God and Savior. But none of these attitudes or actions will thwart the purposes of God. We do indeed have a confident assurance as our foundation and lift

Monday, October 10, 2016


I never cease to be amazed, and encouraged, by the place that prophetic events had in the minds and hearts of the writers of the New Testament. They clearly understood what so many today fail to understand. And just what would that be? They understood that prophetic truth was given to us to alter and adjust the way we think, and that way we live TODAY. Information about the future was designed to target life in the present, and not simply to inform about what will take place in the future (though it does do that). So when pastors neglect to teach their flocks about what God is going to do in the future, they are actually depriving their people of a key element that is needed for godly living today.

Prophetic truth is not limited to a few sections of the New Testament, but rather is found everywhere. For example, we normally don’t think of Peter’s writings as being eschatological. But in about 25 verses in his two brief letters, Peter includes truths about coming future events. Philippians is not viewed as a book about prophetic themes, but it has some 15 references to the future. When the N.T. writers were instructing and exhorting believers to godly living in an ungodly world, they frequently had them focus some on the future where “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” And it is a phrase out of Philippians that I would like to focus on in this article. The phrase is used three times by the Apostle Paul. It is the phrase “the day of Christ.”
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until THE DAY OF CHRIST.” (1:6) “…so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until THE DAY OF CHRIST.” (1:10) “…holding fast the word of life, so that in THE DAY OF CHRIST I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (2:16)
What is the “day of Christ”?
It is sometimes thought that this is the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament phrase “the day of the Lord.” There are similarities. Both of these phrases do carry the idea of a time of special divine intervention and dealings with mankind and creation. So both include the point that God is going to intervene in a unique way. But they really are looking at different times of special divine intervention.

In the Old Testament, the “day of the Lord” is used dozens and dozens of times by the writers of the Old Testament. When we look at these many occurrences, it is seen that this phrase includes three major events: (1) the tribulation period; (2) the coming of Messiah (2nd coming, we would call it); and (3) the time of kingdom blessing, which is the reign of Messiah. Clearly all three of these are special times when God uniquely enters His creation. And while all of mankind is involved, the nation of Israel is the focus of the three events that are part of “the day of the Lord.”

However, the way Paul uses the phrase “the day of Christ” points us in another direction, away from the phrase “day of the Lord.” It looks at something unique in the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church.

The “Day of Christ” in Philippians
Starting with the third use of the term “day of Christ” (2:16), we can see a number of important details. The Apostle encourages the Christians at Philippi to keep offering the Word to people since that is what this crooked and perverse world desperately needs (2:15). And, of course, it is God’s truth that fellow believers also need in their walk with Christ. Believers need to faithfully and persistently set forth God’s truth to others. They, like us today, needed to persevere as lights in this spiritually dark generation and we do this by continually presenting the truth and standards of God to people. Such labor is not easy and it does indeed require an active, persistent effort. He then explains the purpose for such hard, exhausting work (“toil”). It will not only have an impact on people today, but it will make a big difference when Christ comes for us (the rapture) and when immediately after that event we stand before Him at His “judgment seat.” If they will faithfully set forth the Word of God, then neither Paul nor the Philippian believers will have run in vain. If, on the “day of Christ” (that time of Christ’s special intervention into the world and into our lives), when these believers stand there with Paul, it would a time of great joy, and also proof that all of Paul’s hard work was not in vain.

The same athletic imagery of not “running in vain” was also used by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, where again he was speaking about the rewards that would come to him at the judgment seat, if he diligently served Christ. If these believers would continue living faithfully, then Paul would have grounds for glorying at the judgment seat since his labor among them would clearly not be in vain. The point that laboring for Christ is never an empty, meaningless way to live (“in vain”) is given emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15:58 as well, where the Apostle declares that “our labor is not in vain in the Lord”. It will make a difference now and later.

The first use of the “day of Christ” (1:6) also points to the rapture, followed by the judgment seat. The believers at Philippi had partnered with the Apostle from the time they came to faith in Christ (Acts 16) up until the time he wrote this letter. They had regularly supported him financially (e.g. Phil. 4:16) and they had been involved in the ministry alongside Paul (e.g. Phil. 4:3). He was convinced that their faithful service for the Lord would continue right up to the day when they all would come before Jesus at His judgment seat. (By the way, this statement also points to Paul’s expectation that the Lord would come in the lifetimes of the Philippians and himself!). And if they did continue on as he expected, then on the “day of Christ” there would be great reward.

The second use of the “day of Christ” (1:10) is in the same basic context as the first use of the term. The emphasis here is on the believer focusing on the very best things; things that stand the test of God’s standard of excellence. Paul wants them to live this way so that ever increasingly their lives would be authentic (without hypocrisy) and lives that would not put stumbling blocks in front of others. The unasked question is, of course, why bother working so hard at this Christian life when we could just take it easy. But living with the level of disciple and focus that Paul is speaking about will be worth it in the “day of Christ.”

It becomes clear that our daily lives are to be ordered by the realization that we will give an account before our Lord Jesus in “the day of Christ”. This concept is woven so expertly by Paul (and other NT writers) into the fabric of their discussions on living quality lives today for Jesus. We are to keep on keeping on in our work for Christ, which is called “exhausting toil”. We are to strive towards greater excellence in our lives and greater dedication to the Lord. Why such effort? Paul explains the purpose for all this effort: “in order that” our appearance before the Lord will be a time of glory and joy (not a time of embarrassment and shame). It is good to be reminded of these truths as we live today and continually find it challenging to swim against the strong current of a “crooked and perverse generation.” And pastors need to be encouraged to proclaim all of the counsel of God, which includes such important doctrines as the rewarding of believers. It will be worth it all “in the day of Christ.”

Monday, August 8, 2016


This article marks four full years of writing a monthly piece for Scofield Ministries. Not long before Dr. Mal Couch went to be with the Lord Jesus, he called me and asked if I would write articles for Scofield. I was glad to be of help to my friend Mal and I am thankful for this opportunity to share the Word of God in this venue.

I mention this because prior to all this, Mal and I would talk fairly regularly about biblical and theological matters. He would often call and want to know what I saw happening in this or that school, or perhaps some trends in the church. He was rightly concerned with the matter of false teaching that was flooding the churches and institutions of Christian higher education. And he was rightly concerned with what would likely take place in the future. We were both observing doctrinal erosion taking place at an alarming rate, and the sacrificing of truth on the altars of bad exegesis, personal kingdom building and religious tolerance. I miss those phone calls and times of discussion. But I miss even more Mal’s devotion to the truth of God and his willingness to point out teachings that were not aligned with a good exegesis of the Scriptures. There are fewer and fewer like Mal Couch in today’s church.

And as Mal and I suspected, the reality of false teaching has not gone away. In fact, as many readers are well aware there is an inglorious future for false teaching as the Bible reveals that there will be deep inroads into God’s truth. The Apostle Paul issued clear warnings about what the church would face in the future.

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
And so, reflecting on the concerns of our friend Mal, let us remind ourselves of the role that false teaching will have in the future. To try and organize the subject, let me suggest that there are five distinctive moments in the future of apostasy and error.

(1) THE PRESENT GROWTH OF FALSE TEACHING WITHIN THE CHURCH. As we observed in the above verses, there will be a deep decline in the truth as the church age heads towards its end. Error of all kinds, coming from Satan and his forces, will come flooding into the church with approval of those who lead the church. These teachers, according to the Apostle Paul, deceive others but are also deceiving themselves (2 Tim. 3:13). These have been promoting error for so long, they actually believe their own falsehoods. This is an important insight from the Apostle.

Consider the impact of the Emergent Church movement with all its variations. It has, at its very core, a lower view of the Scriptures. The Scriptures are not seen as all that clear nor are they the absolute, final authority. Thus there is hardly any area of doctrine that has not be altered, denied or ignored.

Consider that it is increasing difficult to find a local church with solid, exegetical teaching of the Word. Most of what passes for preaching/teaching in the evangelical church is a superficial glance at the Scriptures followed by lots of stories and supposed application. But this application lacks biblical authority because they do not emerge from a study of the text of Scripture. This preaching is more religious entertainment than thoughtful exposition of what God has said.

Consider the ever increasing absence in teaching the critical doctrines of biblical prophecy. Very little time is given to these doctrines which call men to live better now because of what lies ahead when Jesus returns.

Consider that seeping into the thinking of evangelical churches are ideas and doctrines that were once the domain of the cults (such as annihilationism) and the operating principles of new age/occult movements (such as contemplative prayer).

(2) THE SUDDEN EXPLOSION OF ERROR AT THE RAPTURE. There are, of course, in this world pastors and teachers who are faithfully teaching God’s Word. But imagine what it will be like when all who teach truth are taken out suddenly and supernaturally at the rapture event. There will be for a brief time none who proclaim the truth of Scripture. Error will dominate as never before (except maybe in Noah’s day). This is what the Apostle Paul was referring to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 when he said that “the apostasy comes first” (before the Day of the Lord begins and the Antichrist revealed).

(3) THE FLOURISHING OF FALSE RELIGIONS IN THE 1ST HALF OF THE TRIBULATION. The Rapture event, which is accompanied by the removal of the Spirit’s ministry of restraining sin, will prepare the soil for the flourishing of much religion, all of which does not see Jesus Christ correctly. Revelation 17 reveals the domination in the west of a false church (the great Harlot). This church will become incredibly wealthy and amazing powerful politically. It will be “drunk” with blood of the martyrs of Jesus. It is totally apostate. Then there will be a revival of the OT Jewish religion with its animal sacrifices and rituals (Dan. 9:27). But it is a religion that is blind to the truth related to Jesus Christ, son of Abraham, son of David. It too is deep in error (though that will eventually change). We must assume that the major religions of the world today will flourish to one degree or another in the first half of the Tribulation period. Satan gladly has people worship something, as long it is not Jesus. Worshiping anything/anyone is not his final goal, of course. But this situation will do until Satan is ready to bring in his one world religion, in which he and the Antichrist are the objects of worship.

(4) THE GREAT ONE WORLD RELIGION OF SATAN AND THE ANTICHRIST IN THE 2ND HALF OF THE TRIBULATION. The absolute climax of apostasy is seen in the 2nd half of the tribulation. It is at that time that the world will worship the Devil and his close associate, the Antichrist. Revelation 13 gives a very clear picture of what lies ahead for the worshipers of this world.
“And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast (Antichrist); and they worshiped the dragon (Satan), because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast saying ‘Who is like the beast and who is able to wage war with him?’…And all who dwell on the earth will worship him….
Paul adds the point that the Antichrist will take his seat in the Temple of God in Jerusalem and by so doing, declare himself to be God. Paul then explains that this comes about because people have rejected God’s truth, preferring the lies that come from Satan. (2 Thess. 2:4-12) All of this error comes to a sudden, dramatic end by the appearance of the Truth. Jesus, who declared Himself to be “the truth” (John 14:6) will terminate all falsehood and will establish God’s truth on the earth.

(5) THE BRIEF APPEARANCE OF REBELLION AND APOSTASY AT THE END OF THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM. We are a little surprised when we learn from Revelation 20 that at the conclusion of the Messianic (Millennial) kingdom, that error will return. We wonder why. Satan, the deceiver/liar and the father of error, will be temporarily released from his imprisonment in the Abyss. He will find some who are ready to rebel against the Lord who is truth. So, it appears, that for a brief, final time, error is back in the realm of mankind. But, once again, why would God bother allowing this to happen? Unfortunately, the text of Revelation 20 does not give an explanation.

It is my best guess that God (who is a great educator) allows for this error filled rebellion to take place to illustrate one final time that man’s problem has never been his environment or circumstance but rather it has been his heart. In the Messianic kingdom, all the excuses that people give for embracing that which is sinful (lack of education, poverty, the influence of culture, Satan’s influence, disease or sickness, flourishing of evil people, etc. etc.) are simply not there. These things do not exist which means that the end time rebels have lived in a perfect environment. But the rebels (who were born in the messianic age but never personally placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ), illustrate that people go to that which is false because they have bad hearts; that is, they are inwardly sinners. The problem is their heart and not the environment. The rebellion is quickly put down by God, but the point is made: men love error because their nature is that of a rebel against God and His truth.

So we know something of the future of apostasy and error. What are we to do since the Bible is abundantly clear about what lies ahead? Obviously, we are not called upon to stop the end results. But we are to faithfully teach God’s authoritative, inerrant Word whenever and wherever we can. After Paul told Timothy of the false teachers who were coming, he communicated the following guidelines for him and us.
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them…All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearance and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.” (2 Tim. 3:14, 16 – 4:2)

Monday, July 11, 2016


Recently, as I was paying my bill at a local auto repair shop, the man behind the counter voluntarily expressed his deep concern over the coming elections. He was enamored with none of the candidates and was feeling pretty powerless to do much about the conditions of this country. To him, the future was quite bleak.

In my contacts with believers, and even with some unbelievers, the view of the auto repair guy is becoming pretty common. Along with a growing frustration with leaders and events, there is a sense of foreboding in the hearts of many as they peer into the future. And I too have not been immune from all of this. As those who are believers, we know the truthfulness of Proverbs 14:34 which powerfully declares that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” But righteousness is not doing well and seems to be in freefall, while on the other hand sin is flourishing everywhere.

The Apostle Peter, as he wrote his second letter, told his readers that he simply wanted to “stir you up by way of reminder.” Every now and then we need to have known truths repeated. It freshens those truths up and it helps us to finely focus the lens of life. The purpose of this short article is to help do that. Periodically we need to go through our “theological exercises” where we rehearse God’s truths. And there are four truths which should be part of our “exercises” as we live in the current political and moral climate and as we anticipate our future and the future of our country.
  • TRUTH #1. God’s people have very often lived in a moral and political climate where the true God is not taken seriously. We have many examples of devoted followers of the Lord who were living in times and cultures not of their liking: Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon and the Apostles living under Roman rule. None of these settings were ones that lifted up the Lord God and His Word. So what we face is not new, even though it may be new in our own personal experiences. It strengthens us some to remember that these kinds of conditions have been experienced by many of God’s people over the centuries, and that they lived well for God in them. In looking at the above mentioned people, I am reminded of three other truths found in the story of Daniel in Babylon (which was hardly a conservative, evangelical nation!).
  • TRUTH #2. Daniel’s main focus was on the sovereignty of the God of Israel and not on the deplorable situation Israel was in. What we really believe affects the way we live. And as Daniel was faced with physical death and the rantings of an arrogant king, he firmly believed that God is not handcuffed by people or circumstances. God has a sovereign plan which He is going to execute and it will be executed at the precise time that He decrees. Daniel 2:20-21 must not be forgotten as we face the coming elections. These verses read as follows:
    “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings ; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.”
    According to Daniel, God’s sovereign power is seen in the fact that He controls “the times and the epochs”; by which we understand that He is the one who structures all history generally as well as all of the sequences of events. It is the Lord God who controls the events on this planet and this country. It is not men, angels, circumstances and not even the democrats or republicans. This sovereign power is further evidenced by the fact that God alone decides who will rule and when they will rule and when their rule will end. This is something that Daniel fully appreciated and that truth brought great calm and clear perspective to him. Believers today need to rehearse this truth and remember that God, for His own purposes, sets up rulers and takes them down. We are too easily influenced by the media and life around us, causing us to forget that the Lord God really is in charge of and the director of all things. No power or person can change the course of God’s plan.
  • TRUTH #3. Daniel had a clear understanding of the long term “end game.” In the second chapter of Daniel is recorded the great statue vision of King Nebuchadnezzar. You will recall that in this dream the broad perspective of human history is seen; a history culminating in the establishing of God’s future, forever kingdom. Daniel came to understand that various kings and kingdoms will have their “15 minutes of fame” but they will disappear. And so, while they might huff and puff, rant and rave, they and theirs are short lived. The “end game” is God’s final kingdom which will never be replaced by any kingdom of men or angels or demons. There is no doubt at all where God’s sovereign plan and working will end up. But only God knows the necessary steps in arriving at that great final destination. He will bring about a complete and final restoration (and enrichment) of everything that had been lost that fateful day in the Garden of Eden. His glorious, righteous kingdom will come. Daniel 2:44 reads:
    “And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
    There comes to us both calm and strength when we remember that God is very clear in the direction all of this is going. The arrogant and wicked might be experiencing temporary successes, but even those things fit into the sovereign plan of God to bring about His future, forever reign. And as believers in Jesus Christ, we hold citizenship in that coming kingdom which will never be conquered or fade away.
  • TRUTH #4. During this time, Daniel’s priority was on faithfully serving His God. As we read through the book of Daniel, it is impossible to miss the wonderful faithfulness of the man Daniel to the Lord his God. It was observed from the very beginning when it is said that “Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself…” (Daniel 1:8). It is seen at the end of his life when he continued to faithfully pray to the Lord three times daily in spite of a decree expressly forbidding such actions. (Daniel 6:5-10). There were many things in the kingdom of Babylon that Daniel could not change or get rid of. But what he could do was to faithfully serve the Lord on a day to day basis.
And that simply is our task. Day by day we are to abide in Christ and to faithfully obey Him. We may not occupy positions of authority or wield great influence, but we have much to do. We are to love the brethren, share the gospel with lost folks, use money biblically, serve the body of Christ, flee sin, be faithful in our family relationships, worship Him, speak God’s truth under His direction, and many other things. And yes, we can relate to government, elections and the political aspect of life. We are told to pray for those in authority so that we believers might live in peace and godly dignity (1 Timothy 2:2). We have the privilege of voting, so as citizens we should use that privilege. And we ourselves can even run for office whether it be local, statewide or nationwide or actively support godly candidates.

But with our knowledge of God’s sovereignty, which will bring about the “end game” of the marvelous future kingdom of God, we are to live today with confidence and purpose. Being down-hearted and anxious are not becoming of the child of the coming King.

Just a reminder.

Monday, June 13, 2016


The prosperity of evil people has been a nagging problem for believers throughout the ages. For example, in the past, Asaph was depressed and confused about why wicked people do so well (Psalm 73). Even in the future, the martyrs of the tribulation will cry out; “how long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10). In the present, we are upset by those who appear to break God’s laws with impunity.

The point is: if God is holy, and if in fact He has issued commands to His creation, then should He not do something when those commands are violated or ignored? But people regularly don’t obey. They do indeed ignore those standards that God Himself has set up. And furthermore, while engaged in such things, it seems there is a high level of disdain for God and His standards. We see, in our own country, political leaders who lie and deceive and whose arrogance knows no bounds. They seem to be a law unto themselves, as God’s laws are irrelevant. Daily in the public forum, “reality” stars, movie stars and many other “famous” folks flaunt their immorality and post on the internet their fleshly indulgences and depraved behaviors. And nothing seems to happen. The impression is that God has grown disinterested in all of this, or that perhaps, over the millennia, He has grown a little more tolerant toward such behaviors. His apparent inaction is quite troubling deep down in the souls of many of those who follow Him. The resulting confusion is what Isaiah spoke about centuries ago (Isaiah 5:20-21).
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight.”

And Malachi 2:17 and 3:14-15 record something quite similar.
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?”

“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts?’ So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up, but they also test God and escape.”

With tears, the prophet Jeremiah added another verse to the song.
“For all of them are adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men…lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil.”

These prophets represent accurately the thoughts of many who see evil flourish but with few, if any, negative consequences. So people conclude that it really makes little difference if a person does or does not live by biblical truth. It does appear that God has absented Himself from the world scene. Of course, we know that God’s Word states that God has not withdrawn from life here on earth. In fact, in answer to the question of Malachi 2:17, “where is the God of justice?”; the next verses make it clear that He is coming in judgment. Malachi 3:15 suggests that the “arrogant” and “evil doer” are seen as blessed, but in 4:1 the “arrogant” and “evil doer” are seen as being consumed like chaff in God’s fiery furnace of judgment.

So, the short answer is that God will, in His time, judge those who break His laws. No one gets away with flaunting evil in the face of the holy God. But as we consider present evil and future judgment, we should remember certain facts.

Fact #1: God has not changed over the centuries. Any idea that God has evolved to being a deity who now sees righteous and unrighteousness in a new light, is just plain wrong. One of the attributes of God is that He is immutable (does not change). He has not diminished in holiness, love or any other attribute. In fact, that point is made in Malachi 3:6 where God declares; “For, I, the Lord do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” God’s holiness has not changed but then neither has His love and mercy. And for that, Israel (and all of us) was to be very thankful. So, the issue is not that God has changed and is now more tolerant of sins. The line between righteousness and unrighteousness has not become blurred. He is the same today as He was millennia ago. His love and mercy do not change and neither does His attitude towards evil.

Fact #2: God is patient, but He is not indulgent. Perhaps the most succinct statement on this matter is one that God Himself made in Exodus 34:6-7. Moses had asked God to reveal Himself, and in these verses the nature and attitude of God is declared in a wonderful way. God revealed that He is slow to anger, gracious and compassionate. He is so very kind and patient towards sinners. Yet, if people do not respond to Him and forsake their sinning, He will indeed enter into judgment against them. Later Old Testament writers were well aware of these important verses given at Mt. Sinai. But Israelites, Americans and everyone else must never interpret the absence of immediate judgment as proof that God has become indifferent or careless about violations of His righteous standards. He is so very patient, but He remains intolerant of sin and evil.

Fact #3: God greatly desires that people avoid judgment by trusting His Son for eternal life and deliverance from the lake of fire. The Apostle Peter put it well when he said that the Lord does not want anyone to perish, but prefers that all would come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). When Jesus died on the cross, the testimony of scripture is that He fully and completely paid for all sin for all time. Salvation (deliverance from damnation and the reception of eternal life) is available to all. It is up to each individual to simply trust in Jesus, the Son of God and deliverer from sin, in order to receive that salvation (John 3:16; 5:24). God the Spirit works 24/7 convincing people of their need of a savior, and people must respond or face the awful consequences of their non-response.

Fact #4: God has declared that judgment will come and it will be both terrible and eternal. If anything makes it clear that God has not “gone soft” on the sins of people, it is the powerful truth of the nature of future judgment. Man’s offenses are against an infinitely holy God and the punishment must properly fit the crime. There are some basic biblical truths which teach the terrible nature of future punishment.
  • Eternal. The fate of the unbeliever is an eternal one. Just as believers receive eternal life, so the judgment of the unbeliever will be endless (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 14:11; 20:11; 2 Thess. 1:9). The warped theological idea of the annihilation of the wicked (that is, these go out of existence forever) is nothing more than wishful thinking and bad exegesis. Jesus and the Apostles tell us with certainty that the punishment will be an endless one.
  • Separated from God. Even atheists today have a relationship with God through “common grace.” This is God’s unmerited favor towards all men, so that (for example) the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. But this “common grace” will be not exist in the future. We can only imagine what the full scope of being totally separated from God will mean experientially to the unbeliever. (2 Thess. 1:9). The eternal fate of the unbeliever is the “lake of fire” which is declared to be the “second death”. (The word death has the basic idea of “separation.”) This is, therefore, the place of eternal separation from the Lord God.
  • Meaningless life. The scriptures repeatedly tell us that life has no real meaning unless a person is rightly related to their Creator/Savior. A life with no purpose or meaning breeds deep depression and even suicide. We are built for a close relationship with God. But an empty, meaningless existence will be the forever experience of the unbeliever! (2 Thess. 1:9; Eccles. 2:25)
  • Suffering. Usually the first thing that comes to mind, when the fate of the unbeliever is contemplated, is the matter of intense suffering. And the Bible does indeed support this perspective. (2 Thess. 1:8-9; Matt. 8:12; 13:41-42, 49-50; 22:13; 25:30, 46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10). Jesus and the Apostles speak in terms that dramatically communicate great sufferings. Even the term “lake of fire” visually communicates the idea of a suffering that will be intense. But all that is involved in this suffering is likely beyond anything we can even imagine.
When we contemplate, even briefly, the terrible future of the one who remains in unbelief, we can better appreciate why the gracious God patiently tries to bring men to belief, and so avoid this eternal consequence. The Lord understands perfectly the nature of this future judgment, and He knows why such a judgment is necessary.

We will never have God’s level of knowledge on this matter. But we can understand that people don’t get away with violating God’s righteous requirements, and that God is not careless or unconcerned about evil that exists in His creation.

Armed with this biblical perspective, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to see our world (culture) through the lens of the Scriptures. Perhaps the best way to end this brief discussion is by hearing the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light….And do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret….Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:6-8, 10-12, 15-17)

Monday, May 9, 2016

THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE IS NOT WISHFUL THINKING (Part 4) (Biblical and Theological Reasons for Pre-Tribulationalism)

In one of the very last paragraphs penned by the Apostle Paul, he spoke of loving and anticipating the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:8). And this should cause each of us to ask ourselves the question, “Do I love His appearing”? “Do I really want to see Him?” And as we discuss and debate the fine points of the coming of Jesus at the Rapture event, we must not lose sight of this most important personal attitude.

In this article, we will finish this short series where we have been setting forth some of the key factors which point to the Rapture being before the start of the period of the Tribulation. So far we have presented four arguments: (1) the distinction that exists between the Church and the nation of Israel which moves us towards a pre-tribulational rapture; (2) the stated purposes for the Tribulation found in the Bible do not include the Church and this points to a pre-tribulational rapture; (3) the lack of evidence for the Church being in the Tribulation in the biblical tribulation passages and this supports a pre-tribulational position; and (4) the clear statement of scripture that the Church is excluded from the coming wrath of God which becomes a compelling support for the pre-tribulational rapture position. Several other evidences will now be presented as we wrap up our abbreviated discussion.

5) The Concept of the “Imminent” Coming of Christ. The word “imminent” is not found in the Bible but has become the word to express the theological idea of the “any moment” coming of the Lord Jesus. The imminent coming simply means there are no signs or events that must take place before He could return and take His bride (the church) to be with Himself. The imminent coming of Jesus is not the same as saying the “soon coming” of Jesus. Though the return is imminent, it may or may not be soon (unless, of course, you have received some divine revelation on the matter). As the NT writers addressed the issue of Christ’s return, they used terms that anticipated this as an any-moment event; that is, that no intervening events had to take place. So they encouraged readers to be watching and waiting for the Lord’s return. They did not suggest they should be looking for an event or sign which might signal Christ’s coming. We must remember that the Second Coming of Christ has the distinction of not being seen as imminent, since many signs such as the appearing of the Antichrist and the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” in a Jerusalem temple must first take place (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Matt. 24:15). But the Rapture is an imminent event and the Church is exhorted to look for the Lord’s appearance and not for certain events or some particular signs.

Here are some scriptures, which when read normally, lead to the conclusion that the writers of the NT believed in an imminent coming of Jesus.
  • James 5:7-9. Believers are exhorted to live righteously because Judge Jesus is right at the door and could come through it at any time.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10. Here believers are encouraged to patiently be waiting for Jesus, not for signs or events.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:7. Paul praises these believers because they too were anticipating the coming of the Savior, not tribulation events.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Paul clearly saw himself as alive at Jesus’ coming which could happen at any time.
  • Titus 2:13. Again, believers are exhorted to be looking for the blessed hope, which is the glorious appearing of Christ and not the tribulation period.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22. The conclusion to this letter includes the use of “Maranatha” which conveys the hope that Jesus could return at any time. Even more Scriptures suggest that the writers and recipients did anticipate an any-moment return of the Lord (e.g. Rom. 13:11-14; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; Phil. 4:5; and 1 John 2:28-3:3).

(6) The Distinction Between the Events of the Rapture and the Second Coming. There are, of course, some similarities between these two events since both focus on the same Person, Jesus, returning from the same place heaven to deal with the same subjects, namely, human beings. But similarities between two events does not mean that they are the same or that they take place at the same time. (e.g. hearing the national anthem while standing with a crowd of people in a stadium does not mean you are at opening day of the major league baseball season. There are countless events which could match this setting). Some of these distinctions are: (1) at the Rapture the saints meet Jesus in the air while at the 2nd Coming Jesus returns to the earth to the Mount of Olives; (2) There is an unmistakable element of judgment on unbelievers at the 2nd Coming but no such element at the Rapture; (3) There is no mention of the Messianic kingdom (the millennium) being set up in connected with the Rapture, but that is the main reason for the 2nd Coming; (4) At the Rapture both living saints and dead saints receive glorified bodies, but in 2nd Coming passages there is no reference to living believers being changed; (5) The Rapture occurs before the wrath of God is poured out while the 2nd Coming follows the time of wrath in the day of the Lord; (6) The Rapture has no signs that precede it while the 2nd Coming has dozens and dozens of signs and events; (7) At the Rapture, the Lord returns with His people to the “Father’s house” while at the 2nd Coming He returns to the earth and stays there; and (8) At the Rapture all believers are removed from the world leaving just unbelievers, while at the 2nd Coming all unbelievers are removed in judgment leaving only believers in the world.

(7) An Interval is Needed Between the Rapture and the Second Coming to Allow for Three Key Events. This point is directed just to the post-tribulational/pre-millennial view since all other views have some amount of time between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Three events would require some element of time (and would not fit with rising to meet Christ in the air and immediately turning around and descending back to earth). These three events are: (1) the judgment seat of Christ; (2) the marriage of the Lamb; and (3) the salvation of people after the Rapture event who will then populated the earth during the Messianic kingdom.

The judgment seat of Christ will involve hundreds of millions of church age saints. If this time of the evaluation of all believers is to have meaning (not just to the individual but to all of creation) there must needs be time involved. God does not “need” time but He is here dealing with people for whom He created time, and time is significant to the creation.

The marriage of the lamb (Rev. 19:8-9) is a highly important event to the Bridegroom as well as to the Bride. It hardly seems that the dignity and grandeur of the event would be captured “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”. God’s dealings with man invariably involve some time, whether it is His time of judging the world in the tribulation or in sending the Son in the “fullness of time.”

The Messianic age begins with believers only. But if all believers are raptured and glorified at the 2nd Coming, then there would be no believers with non-glorified bodies left to enter the millennium. Such people are essential for reproduction of human life in the messianic age, since those in glorified bodies do not reproduce.

Those of us who hold to the Pre-tribulational rapture do so with some good, solid biblical and theological supports. This view is not wishful thinking. We can have confidence that when we approach the Scriptures and interpret them normally, as one would any literature, this position rests on a solid foundation. Yet, behind all the discussion lies the key question. “Do I really love His appearing?” This is the question every believer in Jesus Christ is obligated to ask no matter what theological view they take on the timing of the Rapture event.

Monday, April 11, 2016

THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE IS NOT WISHFUL THINKING (Part 3) (Biblical and Theological Reasons for Pre-Tribulationalism)

When the writers of the New Testament discussed the Rapture event, it was in the context of godly living. The truth of the Rapture was to bring about changes in the way believers thought and lived. It was to assist believers become more loving, diligent, generous and righteous, and less impacted by sin and the culture of the world. In all of our theological discussions, the end result ought to be a movement towards greater godliness in our personal lives and a greater love for the Savior who is returning. Far from breeding an “escapist” mentality in many believers, the doctrine of a pre-tribulational rapture has fueled a passion to serve Christ Jesus effectively in whatever time is available. With this attitude in view, we present another argument for the Rapture occurring prior to the seven years of tribulation.

In the first two articles in this series, we set forth three arguments that point to a pre-tribulational rapture: (1) the distinction between the church and Israel; (2) the purposes of the tribulation do not include the church; and (3) the lack of evidence for the church being in those last seven years (the tribulation). This articles continues with a fourth line of evidence.

(4) The Church is Excluded from the Coming Wrath of God. Most rapture views agree that God has promised the church of Jesus Christ exemption from the future wrath of God. (For example; the mid-tribulational rapture view sees just the second half of the Tribulation as a time when God’s wrath is present; thus, the church is taken out at the half way point prior to the outpouring of the wrath of God). The Apostle Paul has clearly stated in 1 Thessalonians that the church will not experience the wrath of God.
“…to wait for His Son from heaven, who He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1:10) “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (5:9)
God’s promise of exemption does not mean that the church will avoid all trials, troubles and persecution. In fact, the Scriptures are quite clear that times of tribulation and difficulty await the church (e.g. John 15:18-20; 1 Peter 4:12-16). But this kind of tribulation and persecution is not the future wrath of God that will be poured out on this world.

In1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 the Apostle praises these believers for their confident, patient looking for the coming of Christ. He will deliver believers from the coming wrath. The word “deliver” (rhuomai) carries with it the idea of rescuing from something by a forcible act. The word puts an emphasis on a mighty act which delivers from a great peril of some kind. This powerful rescue by the Lord Jesus at His coming (the rapture) does not include everyone on the planet but only believers in Him. This passage affirms that Jesus Christ will rescue believers “out from” (ek) the coming wrath. We will be rescued out of the time of wrath, not preserved with it. It speaks of a complete removal and rescue from the period of God’s future wrath.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 also points to the removal of the church prior to the time of God’s future wrath. In these verses, the Apostle states that it is God’s sovereign determination to delivers us from wrath. God simply will not bring His wrath on His own people. We look forward to the coming of the Lord Himself, and not to the coming wrath poured out on the world. In this passage, Paul makes a sharp distinction between the fate of the world (“they”) and the different destiny of believers (“us”). It is the Lord Jesus who brings us deliverance and keeps us safe.

We should also observe the Apostle John’s statement in Revelation 3:10 where protection is promised believers to keep them from (ek) the hour of testing (the tribulation period). We are specifically promised that we are kept from “the hour of testing”, and not simply kept from testing. This promise necessitates actual removal from the time period itself and not preservation through it.

If it can be demonstrated the entire seven year period sees the wrath of God on the earth, then we have very compelling evidence that the church is removed before the seven year period begins. And there is such evidence.

First, it needs to be noted that Jesus declared that all judgment has been given over to Him by the Father (John 5:22, 27). This declaration establishes an important foundational point when interpreting the Book of Revelation, namely that all divine judgments come from the Son of God.

In the heavenly scene found in Revelation 4 and 5, the Father who sits on the throne has a scroll in His hand; a scroll which is sealed with seven seals. The significance of the seals is that they keep the scroll secure; that is, no one can change the scroll or tamper with it. In this heavenly scene, it becomes clear that no one in all the universe has the authority to take the scroll and open it. But there is one exception---the Lion-Lamb (Jesus Christ). When the Lord Jesus takes the scroll and begins to break the seals, the judgments of God (His wrath) begin to fall on the earth. The breaking of the first seal by Christ is a divine judgment.

God’s wrath is seen in all the judgments on the scroll, which includes the three series of judgments---the seals, the trumpets and the bowls. God’s wrath includes those judgments that are direct supernatural acts (such as the great disturbances in heaven and the one hundred pound hailstones pounding the earth), as well as those forces, elements and individuals that God uses in an indirect way (such as war, famine, the Antichrist and Satan). It is erroneous to speak of “man’s wrath” and “Satan’s wrath” in some of these judgments. Christ will use a variety of things to judge, but they will all be God’s judgments. In a similar way, the armies of Assyria, Babylon and others were used by God as instruments of His wrath in the Old Testament. These are not to be seen as the wrath of man, but for what it is, God’s wrath on Israel using foreign armies.

It is of supreme importance that we note that God has specifically told us what His wrath “looks like” in many Old Testament passages. In the first seal judgments, which start the seven years of tribulation, there will be famine, disease, the sword and wild beasts of the earth. In Ezekiel 14:21, God speaks of these four things (famine, disease, sword and wild beasts) as His four severe judgments. The context of Ezekiel 14:21 (vss. 12-21) indicates that these four things are the expressions of God’s wrath. This verse is but one of many that identify these four as the wrath of God (note Lev. 26:21-28; Deut. 11:17; 28:20-26; 32:22-25; Jer. 15:1-9; 16:4-11;; 19:7-9; Ezek. 5:11-17; 6:11-12; 7:3-15; Num. 11:33;; 16:46; 25:8-11). It is no off-handed comment that the Apostle John makes when he specifically mentions these four entities in Revelation 6. There is a deep and pervasive OT background to these four things; as indicators of God’s wrath.

When King Jesus break the very first seal on the scroll, the wrath of God begins to be poured out on the earth. And the fact that the church has been exempted from God’s wrath and is promised removal from the time of wrath itself, is compelling evidence that the church is removed before the Tribulation period begins.

We will explore additional supports for the pre-tribulational rapture in the next article.