in all things,
the supreme excellence is
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sometimes I amaze myself … not in a good way. After working very hard at something and raising my stress level to off-the-chart crazy, it suddenly occurs to me that there was a much easier way to go about it and achieve the results I had hoped for. Some refer to that as “common sense.”
That’s the term that came to me when the pieces of my “rapture puzzle” started coming together, effortlessly. God used an actual jigsaw puzzle to show me a basic principle to use when studying prophecy. It was a Coca-Cola collage that I’d been working on for many weeks. I had fitted all the pieces together except for one – and it would not fit in the remaining space.
The emotion I experienced was similar to that of working on any jigsaw puzzle to the very end, only to find that one piece was missing. The picture could not be completed! But in this case, after assembling 1999 shapes, I held the final fragment in my hand … how could this be?
My attention was drawn to a specific area with similar colors. And I saw it – the piece that I had forced into position because it was so similar, and it looked like it should fit. Without any strain or struggle, I was shown the one piece that was causing the problem! I switched the shape with the one I held in my hand, and the monolith was finished.
At that moment, I saw a parallel between the challenging puzzle and the pre-tribulation rapture theory that I’d been studying. There is one verse used by advocates to build that theory, and it just doesn’t fit. Without it, the entire teaching is incomplete. It’s Revelation 4:1, where John writes: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’”
The “pre-trib. theory” pinpoints the instant when John describes being taken up to heaven “in the Spirit” (verse 2) as symbolizing the moment when the Church will be removed from Earth during the rapture. When I compared that assumption with the timeline that Jesus gave … it simply doesn’t fit.
I’ll show you why.
Keep in mind that in Revelation 4, John is revealing what he personally experienced. Compare that to the sequence of events that Jesus revealed to His disciples, as recorded in the synoptic gospels – specifically in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21:
Many will come, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.
- There will be wars and rumors of wars; nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
- There will be famines, earthquakes, pestilences, and fearful signs in the heavens.
- There will be persecution, death, wickedness, hate, and betrayal.
- The gospel must be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.
“And then the end will come.” At that time:
- An “abomination that causes desolation” will be set up in the “holy place” – on a wing of the temple,” according to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:27).
- Judea will be attacked.
- There will be great distress (“Great Tribulation”) beyond anything that has ever happened on Earth.
- False Christs and false prophets will deceive with amazing miracles.
- Then “immediately after the distress of those days” an unprecedented sign will appear in the heavens: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (This was also foretold by the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, and Joel!)
“At that time, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man [Jesus Christ] coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-34).
In my mind, that is a profound word picture, given by the Lord Himself, to describe the rapture of His Church. And everything beyond that is pure speculation.
“Jesus said, I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned,
and revealed them to little children …
for this was your good pleasure.”
(Matthew 11:25-26, NIV)
A RUST REMOVER …
Think about it: “As people become wise in their own eyes … customs rise up from the spirit of this world … till a departure from the simplicity that there is in Christ becomes as distinguishable as light from darkness, to such who are crucified to the world.” –John Woolman