The Importance of Prophecy

I thought I had heard it all when it came to teachings on “the rapture.” For those who might not be aware, the term comes from the Latin word, “raptura,” which means, “to be caught up.” It is found in the Latin translation of the New Testament in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which in English says, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” And the event will include all those living and dead who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation: everyone who understands and believes that the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for their sins and rose up again from the dead, promising to receive them into His presence for eternity. There are lots of posts here on sheepfood which explain salvation in some detail; click here for one example.

Usually the debate among so-called Bible-believing fundamentalist Christians hinges upon the timing of the rapture in relation to another prophetic Biblical event known as “the tribulation” (a seven year period of world-wide judgment). The vast majority of believers say the rapture will happen before the tribulation (which is what I believe and discuss here), but some think it will happen in the middle, and still others claim it will happen at the end. Until recently I’ve never heard of anyone in that “Bible-believing fundamentalist” category claim there would be no rapture at all. But hearing that got me thinking……

There are things revealed in God’s Word regarding prophecy which are crystal clear and there are things which are less clear. And we have to be honest about it. We simply don’t know everything yet. So then, you might ask, “Why would God leave so many gaps in our understanding of prophecy? Why would He leave so much left unknown?”  … And while pondering this question it occurred to me that asking it that way is both arrogant and unfaithful. The proper question is, “Why does God reveal so much?” The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). He’s not hiding important things from us at all. And framing the question in this new way gave me a renewed appreciation for the wonderful Lord we have. Think about it.

1… Why does He tell us about the tribulation at all? … Because if He didn’t we would have reason to question why He wasn’t fulfilling His promises to Israel. If not to Israel, then maybe not to us either (Rom 9-11). God made promises to Israel a long time ago and the tribulation is the means by which He will restore Israel and fulfill those promises. By knowing of this future event we are assured that God will also keep His every promise to us, too!

2… Why reveal to us the rapture? Well, if He revealed the tribulation for our assurance regarding His promises to us, by revealing the rapture (and I believe the pre-tribulation rapture) He tells us (the believers) that we will not endure the world-wide trouble He plans for Israel’s restoration (see 1 Thess 5:1-11). Those who already trust in Christ do not need to be “restored” in the same manner Israel does. We may be disobedient in many ways but we trust in Him already. And as I read of the world events which will occur during the tribulation I am personally relieved that we won’t be here for it.

3… Why reveal to us the coming of the Lord in glory and the final judgment on the world? This must be a tremendous comfort on believers who suffer persecution (see 2 Thess 1:5-12). God is just! And though we understand His perfect justice was carried out against His own Son for our sin in order to accomplish our salvation, that same justice will also be executed against a world who hates Him as He avenges His saints for the centuries of evil they have endured.

With further thought I’m sure this list can go on and on and be made better and better. What a God He is! So many of us are all caught up (enraptured, if you will) trying to figure out the ins and outs of what God has simply NOT yet revealed. Why do we do it when there’s just so much He HAS clearly revealed, which is there for our edification and even our enjoyment. We need to spend more time understanding what God has revealed and ask why He has revealed it and probably a lot less time speculating on what He hasn’t revealed. There’s no doubt that the questions and “speculations” we make are still good to a point. They help us to understand what the limits of His revelation are. But that’s just not the end of it. The next question is why does He reveal what He does. Surely His reasons go far deeper than we ever realized.

We are enormously blessed that He tells us so much of what will happen. May we act appropriately as the time approaches and be encouraged to know our God has such a mighty care for us, not only in saving our souls, but also in calming our every anxiety regarding our future. He is truly good to us.

J. Wilbur

 

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