Monday, December 5, 2011

PURPOSE OF THE RAPTURE

PURPOSE OF THE RAPTURE

My edited version of Amy Van Gerpen’s Study
[My Words In Brackets]

The resurrection of the Church, widely known as the rapture of the Church, is the transition event between the dispensations of Grace and Judgment. The following verses describe this event:  John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; and Philippians 3:20-21.

What is the purpose of the rapture of the Church? Many believe it is a form of escape from God's Wrath.  While it is true that God has promised that the Church will not be subject to His Wrath (Romans 5:8-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 & 5:9-10), escape from God's Wrath is not the main purpose of the rapture.

Think about the horrible persecutions and torture experienced by millions of Christians since the time of Christ. Those stoned to death by unbelieving Jews, torn apart by lions under Nero, or hacked to death by Muslims in this present day, could attest that their experience was not any less severe than what believers will physically endure in the Tribulation. Again the difference between now and the Tribulation is that God will be pouring out His Wrath on top of unrestrained evil, while today God is pouring out grace while keeping evil in check through the restraining work of the Holy Spirit[which resides within the true believer who has accepted the power of the Holy Spirit as the governing force in their lives].  …the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:5-10 is the Holy Spirit:

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
  
How will the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way of evil? Believers have been sealed and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit till the day of our redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14). If the Holy Spirit is taken, then so must the Church. As the saying goes "if you take the restrainer, you take the container". The rapture event will accomplish the restrainer being taken out of the way.

The purpose of the rapture really goes back to the doctrine of dispensations. Grace and Judgment unto Wrath cannot work concurrently. Scripture clearly tells us that the Tribulation will be a curse and a punishment for the iniquity of Israel and God's enemies in preparation for the Kingdom Age. In other words, God will be cleansing the earth of His enemies in order to start His Kingdom with only believers.  (Jeremiah 30:4-8; Jeremiah 30:9-11; Daniel 9:24; Micah 7:8-9; Isaiah 26:21)

God is going to bring Israel through the Tribulation as a punishment for their iniquity. God will also use the Tribulation as a means to turn the Jewish people back to Him, as He will be turning His focus back to them:  Zechariah 13:8-9.

Though God will be pouring out His Wrath and destroying His enemies, He will still give people a chance to be saved. We see in the passage above, that one-third of the Jews will be saved during the Tribulation. In a few sections, we will see that even during Judgment, God will continue to spread the Gospel message throughout the Tribulation.

We find in Revelation 7, that a multitude of people from all nations will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ during the Tribulation.

Previously, we discussed that Christ has reconciled and sanctified the Church, making us righteous. Also, we saw that the Church is not under the Law because Jesus became a curse for us. If the Church will be under God's curse during the Tribulation, then Jesus being made a curse for us becomes null and void.

Neither is the Church going to be punished for its iniquity, as will be the case for Israel. This is unscriptural, as Christ shed his blood to sanctify His Church (Ephesians 5:25-27). Clearly, God has to remove the Church before the dispensation of Judgment begins, because the blood of Christ has already made reconciliation for our iniquity when He became a curse for us.

[MARANATHA!]

Friday, December 2, 2011

RAPTURE! TEN VIRGINS!


RAPTURE! TEN VIRGINS!
An edited Study by Amy Van Gerpen
My words in [Brackets].

…let's take a look at the first parable to see if it can shed some light on the event of "the day or hour no one knows":

Matthew 25:1-13  "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. "And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
 And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
In this parable of the 10 virgins, oil was needed to go to the wedding with the Bridegroom. It is apparent that this isn't about how much oil [amount in possession] the virgins had. Only the foolish virgins, who had no oil, were shut out of the wedding. We are not told how much oil the wise virgins had. Apparently, any amount of oil was enough.

Oil is widely used in Scripture as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit (Exodus 31:3, Isaiah 11:2, Daniel 5:14, 1 Corinthians 12:8). Therefore, we see that the wise virgins had the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the foolish did not.

Unlike the second parable in Matthew 25, we are not told that the foolish virgins are condemned for eternity. Notice that the foolish virgins went to get oil, but by the time they got the oil and came back, they were already shut out of the wedding. In other words, the five foolish virgins eventually do buy the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, but they were too late for the wedding and had to go through the Tribulation.

The foolish virgins would then be people that are not saved at the time of the rapture but then find salvation during the Tribulation. 

The following proverb supports that the foolish virgins bought wisdom which comes from the Holy Spirit, which suggests they later gain salvation through truth and understanding:

Proverbs 23:23  Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”
In the Jewish wedding tradition, after the wedding chamber is built and the father decides when it is time, the son would go fetch his bride. The bride and wedding party would go back to the father's house, where the bride and bridegroom would go inside the wedding chamber for a week to consummate the marriage. The wedding party would celebrate outside the wedding chamber during this week.

After the couple emerged from the chamber when the week was over, the celebration would continue with a reception and feast to honor the new couple. We see this pattern being followed in a few places in Scripture (Genesis 29:27-28, Judges 14:17, John 2:1-12).

So you can see, in light of the Jewish wedding tradition, "the day no one knows" may be talking about the rapture of the Church. The Church will be whisked away to heaven to be married to Christ where they will spend seven years in the New Jerusalem or the "Father's house" (John 14:2-3). After the seven year Tribulation is over, they will return to Earth where there will be a celebration of the marriage of Christ and the Church at the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9) with the Tribulation Saints invited to join in (Luke 12:35-37).

1 Corinthians 2:6-10 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

As shown in 1 Corinthians 2 above it is the Holy Spirit who gives us wisdom to understand the mysteries and deep things of God that are in His Word. This is why I believe it is possible that the parable of the ten virgins may represent the Church.

[Yes!  So many times I hear speakers and believers quote verse 9 but not 10.  I hear – “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  I DO NOT HEAR, as Paul Harvey would say, THE REST OF THE STORY – “But God has revealed them to us through his Spirit.”  Praise God!  We can get a hold of what God is trying to say to us in these closing moments of this age!  Just study His Word and known, credible experts in this field and pray and you’ll be fine.]

Being a "virgin" spiritual wise would suggest that they believe that there is only one true God rather than being a harlot after other gods, as the scriptures portray throughout the Old Testament. In other words, harlots may believe there is one "supreme being", but chase after other gods instead.

The foolish virgins would be those that believe there is only one true God, but do not have a true repentant heart; being Christian "in name only", yet they don't worship other gods. The wise virgins would be those that genuinely accepted Christ before the rapture. In other words, the wise virgins would be the true body of Christ and the foolish virgins would just be "church goers".

Unbelievers will definitely be taken unaware at Christ's Coming, as He is coming to them as a thief (Matthew 24:43-44; Mark 13:33; Luke 12:37-40).

It seems more fitting that the Church would be sleeping in the time leading up to the rapture as we are told:
2 Peter 3:3-4 ...scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."
 [Also in Revelation 3:14-22, a “lukewarm”  or possibly sleeping or indifferent church is depicted as being present on the earth at the Rapture – the Laodicean Church Age.]

In other words, in the time approaching the rapture, people would question His return because they see everything as "business as usual" or for whatever reason they don't want to think about Him returning in their lifetime. On several occasions I have been a witness to this attitude described by Peter, and sadly it has been mostly from Christians who cite this very passage about not knowing the day or the hour as an excuse for not watching. 

It is evident to me that the vast majority of the Church is not watching and doesn't seem to have any desire to. It wouldn't surprise me if the percentage of believers not watching would be enough to round up to consider them ALL asleep like in the parable. The sleeping Church has no idea how near Christ's return really is. When the rapture does happen, it will take them by surprise. The parable of the 10 virgins seems to illustrate this perfectly.

[Evidently, whatever the “oil” represents, be it – the Holy Spirit, wisdom from the Holy Spirit, Salvation, or Salvation that comes as a result of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit – five of the virgins do not have IT because the other five are not able and/or willing to give it to them and by the time the five lacking virgins do receive what they are missing, the Lord has closed the door.  We who have the oil and are watching with expectation NEED to tell the church themselves about Salvation and the Holy Spirit, as well as unbelievers, before Christ comes and closes the door on them, making them have to journey through the Tribulation Period as far as they can go.]


Thursday, December 1, 2011

GLEANINGS FROM THE FIG TREE

GLEANINGS  FROM  THE  FIG  TREE
Edited Study Taken from Amy Van Gerpen
http://www.trackingbibleprophecy.com/olivet4.php#fig
[words in brackets are mine]

Matthew 24:32-33 - "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

Jesus had finished answering the question about His Coming, when he switched gears here and began to answer the questions about the signs of the end of the age. The first sign that showed that the end of the age had arrived was the fig tree shooting forth its leaves. The fig tree is one of the last trees to bud in the spring. So when it puts forth leaves, people know that summer is right around the corner. What does the fig tree represent?  Israel (Hosea 9:10; Isaiah 5:7; Ezekiel 36:8-12; Amos 9:14-15).

…the fig tree would represent the nation of Israel, based on Jesus' prophetic parable that pointed to the 70AD destruction in Matthew 21 and the rebirth of Israel in Ezekiel 36 and Amos 9. The vine would represent the spiritual state of Israel based on Isaiah 5. The olive tree would be associated with Israel's salvation based on Romans 11.

The "Trees" of Israel (Judges 9)
Israel as the Nation = The Fig Tree (Matthew 21)
Israel's Spiritual State = The Vine (Isaiah 5)
Israel's Salvation = The Olive Tree (Romans 11) 
 
“Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.– Luke 21:31

Notice in Luke 21:31 above that the "kingdom" is near when "all the trees" are budding. The use of "kingdom" with "all the trees" may be indicating that the vine (spiritual) and olive tree (salvation) of Israel will start to bud shortly before the Millennial Kingdom begins, which was foretold to occur in Ezekiel 37 and Romans 11.

Ezekiel 37:13-14 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it," says the LORD.
Ezekiel 37:24-28 David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 28 The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.
Romans 11:25-26 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved...
The book of Habakkuk is about the judgment of Israel by the Babylonians. For the trees not to bloom and bear fruit here shows how the nation of Israel fell; both physically and spiritually. Therefore, the blooming and bearing of fruit of the trees would show the restoration of Israel. Notice that the same trees listed here are those in the the parable of the trees in Judges 9.

It appears that the sign of the fig tree is the beginning of the last generation before Jesus returns. How long is a generation? How does the Bible define a generation? What is the context and starting point of a generation in this passage? The Bible tells us the following:

120 YEARS - TIME UNTIL JUDGEMENT DURING THE DAYS OF NOAH. - God allowed 120 years for Noah's generation to repent before the flood. (Genesis 6:3)

100 YEARS - PROMISE OF RETURN TO THE LAND - Egypt was in captivity for 400 years or 4 generations of 100 years each - Also, there have been 4 different generations of God's chosen people that have been promised a return to the land (Abraham, Exodus from Egypt, release from Babylon, the Balfour Declaration). (Genesis 15:13-16)

70-80 YEARS -NATURAL LIFESPAN OF MAN - Psalm 90:10 gives us a range of 70-80 for the average lifespan of man. [This is the last Scripture we seem to have concerning what a generation might be defined as.]
Psalms 90:10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
What are "all these things"? Jesus had been describing "all these things" throughout the discourse; they are all the things that will occur before He returns. Now He is answering the question about the end of the age, so the fig tree budding would be the starting point of "all these things". It appears that the context here, then, is about the life of that generation to see Israel becoming a nation again.

If this is true, the life of the generation would be 70-80 years. The signs rapidly converging around us show that this length is reasonable. It is also interesting to note that all the prophecies regarding the Jewish exile and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in Luke 21 all occurred within the normal lifespan of 70-80 years from the birth of Christ.

A word of caution here: Though, the 70-80 year generation argument is convincing, we need to be careful of pinpointing dates. We know that the Word of God was inspired and designed with purposeful patterns and symmetry and it would make sense if the Scriptures point to the time of the 2nd Coming. However, we don't have the luxury of having the exact number of years set out for us like they did in Daniel 9:24-26 for the first time Christ came to Earth.

We are only human, so it is probable that our interpretations are not all correct. Therefore it is prudent to not get hung up on dates, because at this point it is an educated guess. The point of all this, even without dates, is that we know just from the signs that time is rapidly running out. Besides, we never know when our time on Earth is up. Therefore, it is best to busy ourselves to further the Kingdom and be ready to meet Jesus today.

[In addition]
Luke 13:5-9 contains the first parable of the fig tree.

“I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."  Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' " 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

In Isaiah 5:7 we see that the vineyard belongs to the Lord. The keeper in Luke 13:5-9 is Jesus, who was three years into His ministry at the time. Right before the parable in Luke 13:5, Jesus warned that unless Israel repented, the nation would perish. In the parable, God told Jesus to cut down the tree, which is Israel. Jesus asked to give the tree another chance until the next season before cutting it down.
Jesus was to spend the next half year trying to bring fruit out of the nation of Israel before giving up on them. The cursing of the fig tree later in Matthew 21 shows us the verdict of the nation Israel. Though Israel as a nation would be destroyed, individual faith and salvation would still be available, as we see at the end of the following passage:

Matthew 21:18-22 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?" So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

[The nation of Israel has been "planted" since 1948.  The nation has also been "budding" in different ways as well, but seems to be showing more of this process in frequency and grand display/intensity lately.  What many biblical, end-time scholars call the Tribulation Period is a time for the recalling and refining of Israel (Daniel 9:24).  The more signs we see setting the world up for that Period the closer believers in Christ are to the Rapture.  This is why I share this information with you, as a fellow believer in Christ, SO THAT, we might keep one eye on Israel, the other on the sky - all the while telling others (non-believers) about Jesus' soon return and His love for them.]