Very interesting topic and conversation. I have listened to this debate for over 40 years, but the intensity of the issue has grown more in the last decade or two.
In the early years little was said about the "rapture", but several did assert wholeheartedly that Jesus IS coming soon! Amen!
To that statement few disagreed, realizing that with God - "one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day."
2 Peter 3:
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Amen. I think - on this we can all agree; that God is not willing for any to perish. His divine will is that all come to the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ.
What drew me into this conversation was not so much the discussion, but the manner in which some discussed. My belief is that above all things we should put on love. There were a few comments that did not sound too loving to me.
I have heard preachers, teachers and scholars discuss and disagree, but most did so with respect for one another still abiding in love. The majority of these teachers did not state so emphatically that they were right and the one who disagreed was absolutely wrong. For the most part they left room for error realizing that, after-all, we do ALL have "feet of clay". Meaning, that even the most educated, opinionated, and forceful teacher just might be wrong.
I have problems with those who demand they are right. Several Scriptures seem to relate to separate events. Maybe not, but I have tried to reconcile these Scriptures and put them into one major event. For me, it just does not make sense.
I tend to agree with those who favor the "pre-trib rapture" for these reasons;
I will begin with the Scripture that is familiar to many.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
We are "caught up" in the air. No mention of Jesus planting His feet firmly on the ground as other Scriptures describe. For instance -
God Will Battle Jerusalem’s Foes
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
14 Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
Revelation 19 -
The Coming of Christ
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
I do not see a similarity between these last Scriptures and 1 Thessalonians 4. I could be wrong and I admit to that.
For the sake of brevity, I am not going to go through every Scripture in the prophetical books. I like to keep my concordance handy for this purpose. I understand those Scriptures dealing with the event that we call "armageddon" and other terms used, such as Megiddo, the valley of decision, and other descriptions of end times events, or the end of the world as we know it. Still, they seem to me to be quite different in context.
What I cannot reconcile is the difference in the the one Scripture that appears to describe a "catching away", or a "rapture", and those that are clearly describing the second coming of Christ.
I trust God! I trust Him that His plans are exactly as they should be. I am content to wait for that day, whenever that day may be and in whatever manner God chooses to use.
But, I do not like the apparent lack of love and even elation some might feel that someone else is wrong. I could be wrong, and I am often wrong, but I sense judgment and ridicule and I do know as Christians that is not how we ought to be.
There is far more written on love, and loving one another, and placing others above ourselves than what is written on the Second Coming and who is right on the timing.
When I witness to the lost, the major argument given to me is how Christians cannot agree and cannot get along. The world watches the church, they watch our actions. Is it any wonder they do not want to join us? I hear complaints of being judged by the church and the feeling that Christians have a "holier than thou" attitude. That breaks my heart, because what I want to hear is for the unsaved to say to me, "You can see their love for each other and for us." It is love and mercy that draws them in, not arguments and debates. In my humble opinion - IMHO I am often asked why there are so many factions and denominations in the church. I really have no answer for that.
We are all very familiar with the Scripture John 3:16, but what caught me attention long ago was vs. 17.
17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
I have decided to leave the judging up to God and just use the love of God to draw them near to Him.
Debates may be good for the edification of the church, but our main goal is Salvation and bringing the lost to Jesus.
When all is said and done, these debates really do nothing to save the lost. That is all Jesus asked us to do. Remember the great commission?
The Disciples Commissioned
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
I read that we are to allow our words to be gracious and filled with love.
I thank you for tolerating my rant today and I pray it will be heard and understood.
I know a song that I like well - one strain goes like this ....
"And they will know that we are Christians by our love ..."
May we always walk in love!
Yours in Christ Jesus,