In Matthew, Chapter 24 we read of the “Great Distress” that will come upon the earth in the latter days
This will be a time of …
A great falling away of believers as Jesus states that “the love of many will grow cold.”
The word “love” here in the original language is ‘agape’ which is “God love.” Only believers have this love in their hearts. So, Jesus is saying that during this time of “Great Distress” there will be a great falling away of members of the Church.
This will be a time of …
The Rapture – a word used by believers but not a biblical word
The Rapture refers to the time when Jesus returns to take His people – the true Church – into Heaven. We will be “caught up in the air with Him.”
The Rapture – is part of the Second Coming of Christ
This time (without the use of the word ‘Rapture’ is written about in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
When in the “Last Days” does this happen?
This time of “Great Distress” and “Tribulation” is spoken about in the writings of the Prophet Daniel as well as the writings of the apostle John – the Book of Revelation
It is a 7 year period of ‘distress’ that is broken into several sections each 3.5 years long
We are told it will start … go for 3.5 years
Then there will be a major event
Followed by another 3.5 years
There are 3 camps in the Christian Church regarding how we interpret these prophetic indications
The Pre-tribulation group who believe we will be raptured before the “ever increasing lawlessness when darkness becomes gross darkness” come upon the earth
The mid-tribulation camp that believes the true believers and disciples of Jesus will suffer through the first half of the Tribulation (3.5 years) and then be Raptured to be with Jesus
The post-tribulation group who believe that Christians will go through all 7 years of the Tribulation and then be raptured if proven faithful
I am often asked which “camp” I am in and thus what I believe.
I reply that my opinion is absolutely not important. God has never asked me my opinion. What matters is that we be ready regardless of when the Rapture takes place. I base this thought on the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24:44… “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
So the key is to be ready!
And, how can we be ready?
What does it mean to be ready?
To be ready we need to be born again, born from above, born of God
The explanation of being born again:
When we are physically born into the world we are born into spiritual darkness and separated from God by our human nature and the original sin of Adam and Eve
We are born physically but we are spiritually dead – separated from the source of life and the Creator of all – God, our heavenly Father
This “original sin” and our subsequent sins committed personally keeps us separated from the Creator because He is holy, spotless, and without sin
If we die in this “natural” condition we will spend all of eternity separated from Him
The cost of sin is death – separation from God
The payment required to cancel the ‘sin debt’ is the death of a perfect sacrifice
As there are no perfect people we find ourselves in an impossible situation
So, while we were in this state and condition God had already planned a solution to our predicament
He became a man, born of a virgin, perfect man and totally God, and dies on the cross of Calvary thus paying the price for our sin – death / separation from God
And, by His resurrection from the dead He proved that hHis message is true and that He is God incarnate sharing our human nature and dying for us as the perfect man and thus perfect sacrifice
Jesus talks about this with a very religious man named Nicodemus…
John 3:1-7 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
Paul writes about this in the Book of Romans…
Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We miss the mark of holiness and God’s perfect plan and purpose for our unique life
Romans 6:23a “The wages of sin is death…”
Death being spiritually separated from God now and forever because of sin
Romans 5:8 “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 6:23b “…the gift of God is eternal life:
This gift of “eternal life” is defined in the Gospel according to John, the apostle
John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
This means He gives to us the supernatural ability to have a personal relationship with Himself – God the Father and God the Son
This is enabled by the God the Holy Spirit who lives in us and enables us to have this relationship
Thus we also share fellowship with the Holy Spirit
2 Corinthians 13:14 “and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Thus we are able to see (as Jesus said to Nicodemus (see above), hear (see John 10:3), and touch God in this relationship
John, one of the early apostles wrote about this…
1 John 1:1-4 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
Yet, as we have seen, during the increasing of lawlessness the love of many of the believers will decrease and fade completely.
Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
The reasons for this ‘leaving of the faith’ are varied I am sure. Let me suggest several:
1> People received the supernatural ability to have a personal relationship with God but never took the time or invested the effort to develop the relationship. Thus the relationship dried up and died – as happens with any relationship that is neglected.
2> The pleasure of the world drew them back and just as they made a decision to enter the Kingdom, they made a second decision to leave the Kingdom and go back to living like the world
3> They were really not born again in the first place. They were lied to by the Church!
Let’s look at this third one in some detail
The Church has been proclaiming the gospel of salvation. This is not a biblical gospel. In fact, it is not a gospel at all.
As Paul warned us… people will preach “another gospel” which the born again church has been doing now for many decades
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”
We are called to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom(Matthew 24:14)
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The Gospel of the Kingdomis based on the Gospel I explained earlier in this teaching …
- You are born into spiritual darkness because of original sin (of Adam and Eve)
- You are a sinner by your thoughts, words, and deeds (actual sin)
- These sins separate you from God who is the source of all life and al that is good
- While you were still sinning as a sinner God loved you so much
- In love He sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross and pay the penalty for your sin
- He rose from the dead to prove He is God and that His death paid the price
This is the basics of the Gospel …
- The Church has been preaching this and sharing this
- Then someone asks you, after you hear the message, “do you believe”
- Well, it made sense and was well explained – seems reasonable, so “yes”
- You understand in your head the information
- Then they ask if you would like to pray and receive Jesus (what He has accomplished)
- You pray together – something often called “The Sinner’s Prayer”
- Then they tell you that you are born again.
- BUT, you are not!
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
So, the Gospel of the Kingdom shares the basic message of the Gospel
And then, the person sharing waits to see what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life
If your heart is ready the Holy Spirit will “convict you of sin, righteousness, and judgement” (John 16:8-10)
This conviction will be obvious to the person sharing with you as it will show on your face, in your body language, and in your brokenness and humility as you recognize that you have offended a holy God and are currently an enemy of Almighty God
This conviction will lead to “godly sorrow” which is sorry that you have offended God. Worldly sorrow is sorry you got caught and/or that you are now paying the consequences for your actions
“Godly sorrow” will lead to “repentance” which is a changing of your mind about God, sin, and salvation… the Christian faith. And, because you begin to think differently, your lifestyle, your thoughts, actions, attitude, and behaviour will begin visibly changing
Then you pray and acknowledge that you are a sinner, that Jesus is God (Lord, Saviour, and God), and ask Him to forgive you, and receive both His forgiveness as well as the gift of eternal life.
Now, you are truly born again and in a relationship with the living God. Saved and in the Kingdom of God!
Any other message is a “false gospel” preaching a “false Jesus” and a “false spirit.”
When John the Baptistbegan his ministry his message was:
“Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2)
When Jesus began His ministry His message was,
“Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15)
When the Church began and Peter preachedthe first sermon, He told the crowd they needed to repent
Acts 2:37-38 “Now when they heard this (the Gospel) they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Notice: conviction, Godly sorrow (cut to the heart), repent…
Peter told them to “repent” and not just “repeat after me” a Sinner’s Prayer.
So, I don’t know when the Rapture will take place and my opinion is not important. What is important is that you are ready regardless of when the Tribulation and Rapture happen.
Matthew 24:44 “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Consider the true Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom… and let the Holy Spirit move in your heart (John 16:8-10) so that you will truly be “born of water and of the Spirit” receiving the true Gospel of the Kingdom and not “another gospel” as many have done today.