1. One day, any day now, something wild is going to happen all across the globe.
2. Without warning, instantaneously, millions of people will vanish.
3. People in
8. As far-fetched as this may seem—it’s going to occur.
9. It’s called “The Rapture” & is referred to several times in the Bible, most notably, in 1 Thess. 4.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
10. The Apostle Paul was answering questions the Christians of Thessalonica had sent him.
a. False teachers had been spreading goofy ideas about the Return of Christ.
b. They’d said the Tribulation had already come & that the only believers who would make it to heaven where those who managed to stay alive until Jesus came again. Paul says this is nonsense!
c. When a believer dies, while their body goes into the grave, their spirit goes to God.
d. When Jesus returns, their spirits will come with Him so they can be reunited with their resurrected bodies.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede [go before, or have an advantage over] those who are asleep [those who’ve died in faith]. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be CAUGHT UP together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
11. This catching up & transformation of believers is called “The Rapture.”
a. The word comes from the Latin translation of v. 17, which uses the Latin word “rapturo” for the Greek “harpadzo” – translated in English as ‘caught up.’
b. It means a sudden, irresistible seizure.
12. In 1 Cor. 15 we find another description of the Rapture in vs. 50-53 . . .
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the
a. These fallen physical bodies are neither proper nor adequate for the glory of heaven.
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1. The Rapture is hard for many to accept.
a. The idea that millions of believers all over the word would suddenly vanish seems pretty far-fetched.
b. We’ve grown accustomed to history flowing along at a nice steady pace with nothing so dramatic or unusual happening.
c. So for many, the Rapture sounds more like science fiction than reality.
2. Interesting - that
very reaction was foretold in
3 Know this as a fundamental truth: scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 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.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
3. While God mercifully allows rebellion against Him to go on for centuries, His patience isn’t inexhaustible.
a. The Flood is a reminder that God will intervene in history when humanity becomes too corrupt, too far gone.
b. Peter sa7s in v. 3 that one of our most basic beliefs must be the awareness that history has a goal, a climax = The Return of Christ.
4. The very same Jesus
who was brutally beaten & mocked, then executed on a Roman cross outside the
5. Several years ago, Lynn & I were able to buy a house.
a. We went through all the rigmarole of signing mortgage & escrow papers.
b. Escrow was 30 days. The house would be officially ours on March 7th.
c. It needed quite a bit of work before we’d be able to move in, so we started getting paint & supplies.
d. As the first days of March arrived, our excitement grew.
e. On the morning of the 7th, I drove to the house early in the morning & parked on the street, waiting for 8 a.m. to arrive. As soon as it was 8, I walked in the front door.
f. Nothing was going to keep me from laying claim to what legally belonged to me.
g. I’d paid the price & observed the forms & now it was time to take possession!
6. Jesus paid the price & observed the forms of Earth’s redemption.
7. We can be assured that He’s ready to take possession of what legally belongs to Him.
8. What day that will be, no one but the Father knows.
9. But – He’s given us ample warning in the Bible about what the world will be like as Escrow gets ready to close on this world & His return is imminent.
1. This message has two intended audiences.
a. It’s being given on New Year’s Day, 2006 – a Sunday. So it’s 1st audience is those here today who are hearing it live.
b. The 2nd audience this message is intended for are those who are left behind after the Rapture. You’re probably listening to a CD or some other media format; maybe the Internet.
2. Here’s my plan with today’s message . . .
a. The Bible contains a lot of prophecy. In fact, 1/3rd of it was prophecy when it was originally penned.
1) Of course a lot of what was foretold has already taken place.
2) Much of what the OT prophets had to say about the Messiah was fulfilled in the first coming of Christ.
3) It’s this record of fulfilled prophecy that helps validate the Bible’s claim to being the inspired Word of God.
4) But there’s quite a bit of prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled.
5) It’s speaks of world conditions & events leading up to the Return of Christ.
b. So what we’re going to do today is to take a look at just a few of the trends in the world today that point to the imminent return of Christ.
c. For those listening to this after the Rapture of the Church, please listen all the way to the end because while you’ve missed the Rapture, it’s not too late for you to come to faith in Christ & gain the promise of eternal life.
d. But there are some things you need to be warned about.
1. Why the Rapture? Why will God remove believers from the Earth?
2. The answer to that
And the first part has to do with
this time, Messiah would come to
b. Between the time He was killed & returned, another ruler would rise who would bring about utter destruction & ruin – the Bible refers to his reign of terror as the “abomination of desolation.”
c. What’s fascinating to see is how history has literally fulfilled nearly all of this prophecy.
1) The angel told Daniel the 490
year countdown would start with the Command to rebuild
2) That command was given by King
Artaxerxes of the Persian Empire on
3) But what happened? As Daniel foretold, He was then rejected & killed. And the prophetic clock stopped.
4) It stopped because the prophecy
5) So there are 7 years left in which God must once again return His attention to the Jews & Jerusalem & complete the prophecy.
6) If the first 483 years were literally fulfilled to the very day – won’t the last 7 years be literal as well? Of Course!
2. This is one reason why the Rapture is necessary; because for the last 2,000 years God has kept His redemptive focus on the Church.
3. In order to shift
His redemptive focus back to
can’t just leave believers here while He turns His attention back to
solution is to remove us from Earth & take us to our eternal home in heaven
where Jesus has made a place for us, as He said in
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in
God, believe also in
c. These words referred to the Jewish wedding ceremony.
1) Once betrothed, the groom went back to his father’s house to added on the room where he & his bride would live.
2) While he built, she waited at her home, preparing her wedding dress.
3) The NT says that the Church is like a bride getting ready for her wedding.
4) As the room neared completion the groom’s friends would go to the bride to announce that the wedding was approaching, but the precise day of the groom’s arrival remained unknown.
5) In the same way, God has sent prophets to announce the good news of His coming, but we don’t know the day.
6) When all was ready, the father of the groom made a final inspection of the newly built room & on His consent, he’d tell the son to go get his bride.
8) On the way to her village the groom’s friends would blow trumpets & shout the good news of the coming wedding.
9) In 1 Thess. 4 we’re told when Jesus comes in the Rapture, trumpets will sound & the angels will shout.
10) Arriving at her village the groom would gather her up in his arms & return to his father’s house where they would be wed.
11) After the marriage supper, bride & groom would retire to their room were they would stay sequestered for the next, guess how many days – 7!
4. While Jesus & the Church are celebrating their union in heaven, the Father returns His redemptive focus to the Jews & fulfills His promises to them as a nation.
5. We can see the world stage is well set for this shift in God’s redemptive focus in that, against all odds, the Nation of Israel is back in her land.
Thinking historically, as well as using any kind of common sense, you’d HAVE to say the existence of the modern
b. Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD & in the mid-second century completed the annihilation of Israel by banning all Jews from the land, renaming Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, & Israel - Palestine, after her age-old nemesis, the Philistines.
c. The Jews were without a homeland for nearly 1900 years.
d. Then, miraculously, in May of 1948, the modern State of Israel was reborn.
e. Never has such a thing happened.
1) The Jews maintained their unique identity for nearly 2,000 years without being assimilated into other ethnic groups.
2) And this despite the fact that there has been no group more persecuted or harassed! Anti-Semitism is a well-known phenomenon.
f. While the existence of Modern Israel might be counted an historical absurdity, believers consider it the most expected thing in the world --
g. Because the Prophet Ezekiel said it would happen in ch. 37.
1) He had a vision of a desert littered with dried, scattered bones.
2) As he watched, the bones came together to form skeletons. Then flesh appeared. Breath returned & soon living people were standing in a lush valley.
4) God told Ezekiel the bones represented the Jews scattered to the four corners of the Earth.
5) But in the last days, He would
bring them back into their land & restore life to
6) On our first day of touring
a) Many of the world largest
companies have major headquarters & production centers in
b) Tel Aviv is the largest
computer center in the world outside
c) Most of the Windows XP
operating system was written at Microsoft’s headquarters in
d) Intel, IBM, Motorola, Sun, National Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Cisco, & 3Com, to name just a few, all have major factories there.
e) The cell phone was developed at
f) Voice mail technology was
g) The AOL Instant Messenger was developed by 4 young Israelis.
i) She has the highest ratio of university degrees.
k) Her standard of living exceeds
that of the
7) But chs. 38 & 39 of Ezekiel
tell us that when
a) Every week for the last few
b) Muslim leaders have recently renewed
their call for the eradication of
c) In following the Roadmap to Peace,
d) Has this satisfied the
Palestinians? Have they backed off on their hostility toward
e) Not one bit! The hand over of land has only encouraged more attacks.
f) This past week new rocket
attacks were launched on Israeli homes from
6. The point is this –
In order for God to shift His attention back to
7. So, the
first reason why God will remove believers from the Earth to heaven in
the Rapture is so that He can turn His redemptive attention back on
8. The second reason God will remove believers is to deliver them from His wrath which is about to fall on the Earth in what is known as “The Tribulation.”
1. 1 Thess. 5:9-11 holds an important promise –
God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other . . .
2. This is the conclusion to what Paul had said about the Rapture in ch. 4.
a. Here he’s concerned with letting his readers know that they will not be the subjects of God’s wrath.
b. The problem was this; they’d been told by false teachers that the Tribulation had already begun because they were being persecuted for their faith.
c. What concerned them was that Paul had taught them the Rapture occurs BEFORE the Tribulation, so if they were already in the Tribulation, then that meant they’d missed the Rapture.
d. Paul tells them that what they’re experiencing in persecution may be tough, but it’s not THE Tribulation.
e. What makes The Tribulation different from all other periods in history is that it’s the time of God’s wrath poured out on a Christ-rejecting Earth.
f. Therefore, the Church CAN’T be around for the Tribulation because believers don’t reject Christ; we embrace Him, & we count His death on the cross as payment for our sins. He took God’s holy wrath so that we wouldn’t have to!
g. So, if the Church was here for the time of God’s wrath, then Jesus’ work on the cross would be of no effect.
3. The Bible has a lot to say about this period of 7years known as The Tribulation.
4. In Daniel chs. 2 & 7 we’re given an overview of history & the main empires that will rule the world.
a. Just as foretold, the Babylon Empire of Daniel’s day gave way to the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were in turn dominated by the Romans.
then something interesting happens in the prophecy;
during this last Empire that Christ comes again & ends the rebellious
kingdoms of man & brings to Earth the glorious
5. For decades,
students of the Bible looked for some kind of revival of the
the Middle Ages European kings tried revive
I & II seemed to put the final nails in the coffin of a revived
c. But the emergence of the European Union has stunned observers.
a single generation of the horrors of WWII, the nations that at one time
comprised the heart of the
last year it looked like the European constitution would be easily ratified, when
to the surprise of nearly all, it was defeated in
i. It’s God’s way of giving people more time to repent before it’s too late.
6. You see, Daniel chs. 2, 7 & 9 tells us that over this union of European nations will rise a ruler who will be -- not God’s, but the World’s idea of the Messiah.
a. He will have all the answers to the most important questions & perplexing problems facing mankind.
have the answer for peace in the
know how to put the world back together after the Muslim world’s catastrophic
d. He’ll solve the world’s economic crisis.
e. And to cap it off, not only will he seem to have unending wisdom, he’ll possess supernatural power so that he can perform miracles.
f. While many will embrace him as the Savior – He isn’t; He’s the one we call the antichrist.
g. Listen to how he’s described in 2 Thess. 2: 3-12
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [meaning The Return of Christ] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 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.
7. Paul means the Holy Spirit Who’s at work in the world through believers to resist evil.
a. Jesus said that as His disciples faithfully follow Him they are the salt & light of the world.
b. We resist evil & hold back the darkness.
c. The antichrist cannot launch his diabolical plans until the salt & light of the Church is removed.
when the Rapture takes place, the levee breaks & evil will pour forth
across the earth like the Gulf of Mexico over
8 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. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, [note that; we’ll come back to it] 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
8. Speculation on the identity of the anti-christ has not been in short supply.
a. Throughout history people have branded their enemies as “anti-christ.”
b. Martin Luther called the Pope the anti-christ & the Pope promptly returned the favor.
c. There’s no end to modern day attempts to identify who he is.
d. But all such speculation is pointless because of what Paul says here – He won’t be revealed until after the Rapture.
e. Christians ought not be looking for anti-christ; they ought to be looking for Jesus Christ!
9. But as a trend, it’s not difficult to see how the world is being primed to welcome someone who can provide leadership.
a. People everywhere are decrying the lack of good leadership
b. Corporate scandals have tarnished the once bright image of business leaders.
c. As governments have grown into obese bureaucracies, government officials are despised as little more than ineffective office holders.
d. The European Union is governed by a Parliament which is in turn led by a president.
e. The presidency rotates among the various member countries.
10. If you’re hearing this after the Rapture, understand that while we refer to this dynamic world ruler as the “anti-christ” & the epitome of evil, don’t assume that he’ll look sinister & evil. Far from it!
a. Part of his deception will be how good he looks & wise he sounds.
b. He’ll have awesome solutions to impossible problems.
c. He’ll appear to be a man of peace.
d. The world will fall all over itself to follow him.
11. As I said earlier, what will clinch their whole-hearted support will be his demonstration of supernatural power.
a. Paul says in 2 Thess. 2 that he’s imbued with satanic power so that he can perform signs & wonders.
b. Why? To what purpose?
c. Jesus worked signs to reveal His identity as God & bring people to faith in Him.
d. The anti-christ will work miracles for the same purpose; to make people think he’s god.
e. Listen again to what Paul said in 2 Thess. 2 –
[He] opposes and
exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he
sits as God in the
f. In v. 11 he says that because the people of the world reject the truth of Jesus Christ, God will turn them over to the deceit of anti-christ & they will believe THE Lie.
13. What lie? What deceit will they swallow hook, line, & stinker?
a. The lie that the anti-christ is god.
14. Stay with me while we take a little side trip now . . .
15. A couple weeks ago, an appeals court ruled against a Pennsylvania School Board which had said Intelligent Design was to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.
a. The judge was harshly critical of the school board for trying to insert religion into the schools.
b. He said that Intelligent Design is nothing but religious creationism wrapped up in pseudo-scientific clothes & has no place in a science class.
c. He also said that evolution was an accepted fact & that there was no room for questioning it’s validity as the explanation for the origin of life.
16. The press & secular humanists across the country were ecstatic & now a campaign has been launched to systematically erase all inroads Creationism & Intelligent Design have made into the public schools.
18. Intelligent Design is far more solid as science than evolution.
a. The fact of the matter is, Intelligent Design spells the end of evolution as far as science is concerned.
b. Evolution has NO ANSWER for the arguments of Intelligent Design.
19. What does this have to do with the anti-christ & The Lie people will believe in the Last Days? Just this . . .
a. By a wave of his judicial wand, U.S. District Judge John Jones declared evolution a fact.
b. The long battle between evolution & creation that began with the Scopes trial 80 years ago appears to be over.
it’s been over in Europe & most of
20. The anti-christ will use the dogma of Evolution to his advantage.
a. He might say something like,
d. Then he will perform some miracle before the eyes of millions.
e. He’ll follow it up with a condition, a test or people’s allegiance – they must put their faith in him, which they will have to demonstrate by performing some act of devotion toward him.
says that he will sit as God in the
21. So as another
trend we look to see if there’s any movement to rebuild the temple in
a. World Net Daily –
b. The building materials have already been purchased & warehoused.
Temple Institute in
d. Priests are being trained to offer sacrifices & perform the daily temple rituals.
e. And rumors are rampant about the location of the Ark of the Covenant being in a room under the Mount.
22. Another trend we look for is the anti-christ’s demand for devotion.
a. This is spelled out in Revelation 13 where we read of the mark the anti-christ’s assistant requires all to take in their right hand or forehead.
b. V. 17 says that without it, a person cannot buy or sell; they will be locked out of the marketplace.
c. Just 30 years ago when I shared this with my non-christian friends they laughed at the idea of a cash-less society where all exchange would be done electronically.
d. But ATM’s and EFT have changed all that.
e. And now the technology of RFID’s & smart chips the size of a grain of rice make the implantation of such things into our hands or foreheads highly feasible.
f. But not just feasible – likely; people are already doing it.
1) To date, over a thousand people have been implanted.
2) Including the entire Attorney
General’s department of
g. What makes this all the more interesting is to take a closer look at the word translated as ‘mark’ in Revelation 13:6.
1) It refers to an engraving in the skin.
2) The word is ideally fulfilled by a hypodermically implanted microchip.
h. I often wonder how much of the tattoo & body piercing craze is a part of preparing people for the Mark of the Beast?
23. And how far-fetched is it to think of the anti-christ saying that all people have to do to show their unity with him & his agenda of global peace & the next wave of human evolution is to be implanted with one of his chips
25. Hold on – Revelation 14:11 says that anyone who takes the mark is eternally lost.
26. So, if you’re listening to this after the Rapture – whatever you do don’t align yourself with the anti-christ, no matter how good he looks or appealing his offer.
27. It’s all a lie – He’s a liar who’s after one thing – your soul.
1. There is so much more we could look at but we’re out of time.
2. The Bible has a lot more to say about what the world will be like prior to the return of Christ.
3. But what we’ve looked at today ought to be enough to convince a reasonable person that the Bible nails it as far as prophecy is concerned & we are living in the last days.
4. After spending many, many hours studying prophecy, I can say with all confidence that the world stage is well set for the Return of Christ.
a. Now, I know what some will say – “Yeah, people have been saying that for hundreds of years, & He’s still hasn’t come.”
b. That’s true – but there’s a major difference between past projections of Christ’s return & today.
c. In the past, people had to interpret prophecy spiritually & symbolically.
d. They had to twist & bend thing to make them fit the events of their day.
e. What’s dramatically different about today is that there’s no need whatever to do that.
f. What we read in the Bible is coming to pass in our newspapers; secular journalists are chronicling the fulfillment of prophecy & they don’t even know it.
5. After a lot of careful study of these things, I can say with all certainty that the stage is well set for The Return of Christ.
a. All the pieces are in place for the Tribulation & rise of anti-christ.
c. The next thing slated to take place on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture of the Church – it could happen at ANY TIME!
6. So – what about you? If the Rapture were to take place today, would you go up, or be left behind?