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Study 8

This study © 2000 by David Humpal

1. What is the rapture? Where does the term rapture come from? Is this idea Biblical?

The idea of the “rapture” comes from scriptures like 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” The Greek word used here for caught away is harpagesometha (from the Greek root harpazo).

Thayer’s gives this definition, “to rescue from the danger of destruction...to seize and carry off speedily...used of divine power transferring a person marvelously and swiftly from one place to another, to snatch or catch away.”

We get the term “rapture” from the Latin and old English usage. In the 4th Century A.D. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin since this was the language of most of the then-Western world due to the influence of the Roman Empire. The Latin word for “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is “rapere.” In fact our English word “rapture” has the same original meaning although it is seldom used anymore. As The New Century Dictionary defines rapture, “The act of seizing and carrying off....” The modern idea of rapture meaning joyful ecstasy, such as “a rapturous symphony” comes from the idea of being caught up and carried off, in this case by the music of the symphony! Both the Merriam-Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary and The New Century Dictionary list the Latin “raptus” as the source for our English word “rapture.” So using the term “rapture” to indicate the catching up of the church is certainly an appropriate, though dated, term. If we were to use a term today, we would probably say the “catching away” of the church, but it means the same thing. McGee wrote, “Rapture is just as good a word as caught up. It is a matter of semantics, whichever word you choose to use. The fact is that the Bible teaches that believers in Christ are to be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Paul taught the rapture of the church. Now if you would like, you could just say you believe in the harpazo -- that’s the original Greek word, and it means ‘rapture’ and it means ‘caught up’.”

2. Should we take the events described in Revelation as literal or allegorical? How do we know they will actually happen? Why are there so many different interpretations of Revelation?

From the first verses and the last verses of the book of Revelation we are told that this is a revelation from Jesus. Revelation 1:3says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” It seems the words of Revelation need to be taken as true as any other words that Christ shared with his disciples.

Because we believe these are Christ’s words, we can have confidence that the events described will actually happen. Of course, the problem is that the language of Revelation contains much allegory and so it has been subject to a wide view of interpretations. When approaching this book, we need to understand this combination of literal meaning and allegorical symbolism. Definite events are being described, but some are represented symbolically which means sincere Christians may honestly disagree over their interpretation.

3. People are constantly predicting the end of the world, is this Biblical? How can anyone believe that Jesus is really coming back to earth?

The idea of the end of the world comes from the Bible itself.

Isaiah 65:17, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

2 Peter 3:12-13, “as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

Christians have nothing to fear about the world coming to an end. We know that God has promised us his eternal care. Matthew 25:31 tells us, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” Jesus will come back to earth in his glory. What happens after that will be in God’s hands, so we don’t need to be afraid.

4. Will Christians be gone when the bad things happen that are described in Revelation? Or will they have to endure torture and persecution?

Christians have debated this question for centuries. My personal view is that the Christians will be taken out of this world before the great time of tribulation, but there are many other sincere Christians who believe that we may have to endure part or all of the tribulation period. In a discussion we had over a year ago, here are the six main reasons I gave that Christians will not have to endure the tribulation of the end time:

1. Time of Jacob’s Trouble

----The tribulation is appointed for Israel, not the church

----Jeremiah 30:7, Amos 5:18-20

2. We Will Be Kept from Wrath

----The church is promised that it will not go through the wrath

----1 Thessalonians 1:10, Revelation 3:10

3. The Church Must Be Removed

----The gates of hell can’t prevail over the church, so it must be removed first

----Matthew 16:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, Daniel 12:1

4. “Maranatha”

----Early Christians exchanged this greeting of hope which meant, “Lord, come quickly”

----1 Corinthians 16:22, Revelation 22:20

5. A Secret Coming

----Different kinds of Christ’s coming described: one open, the other secret

----Matthew 24:32-51

6. Problem Passages

----Many scriptures don’t fit mid-tribulationist or post-tribulationist views

----Matthew 25:14-30, John 14:2-3

5. Will there really ever be peace on earth? If so, how will it happen? Explain the thousand-year reign of Christ.

We all hope for peace on earth someday. It’s something that some have devoted their lives toward only to see it dashed by conflict and war. But the Bible does say that someday there will be true peace on earth.

Isaiah 11:6-10, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.”

This time of blessing will come when the “Root of Jesse,” which is Christ, reigns. This most likely is speaking of the thousand-year reign of Christ on this world as recorded in Revelation 20:6, “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” After the time of the tribulation, Christ returns to the earth to establish Israel as the world center and fulfill Old Testament promises for this nation. During this time we believe will be the thousand years of peace.

6. Will the Anti-Christ be a real person? Who is the Anti-Christ? Is he alive in the world today?

The term anti-Christ is used in 1 John 2:18, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” From references like this and the books of Daniel and Revelation it seems that there will be one anti-Christian world leader who will come to oppose the things of God.

Perhaps Unger explains it best, “From early times the opinion has prevailed that the antichrists referred to were the forerunners of an evil rather than the evil itself. Some individual would arise who, by way of eminence, would be fitly called the Antichrist; and who, before being destroyed by Christ, would utter horrid blasphemies against the Most High and practice great enormities upon the saints. This view is scriptural and came from connecting the passages in John's epistles with the descriptions in Daniel and the Apocalypse of the great God-opposing power that would persecute the saints of the Most High; and of the apostle Paul's ‘man of lawlessness’.”

Throughout history some Christians have identified different individuals as the Anti-Christ such as political leaders, religious leaders, and anyone famous whose policies they disagreed with. These have all proven to be wrong. Until the Anti-Christ is revealed it will probably be impossible to know who he is. Whether you think he is alive in the world today will depend on how soon you think that Jesus will be coming back for his church. The early Christians all believed that the Lord would return quickly. During every great revival down through the centuries believers felt that Christ’s return was imminent. Even though it is impossible to know when Christ will return, I believe an expectation of Christ’s soon return is healthy for the church. We need to be about the Lord’s business as if the days are short.

7. What do the numbers 666 stand for? Do they have an evil power?

The term 666 comes from Revelation 13:8, “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.” Bible interpreters have come up with all kinds of different meanings for this. One of the more humorous is one recently which proposed that if you assigned the numbers of one unusual form of Bill Gates’ name, the founder of Microsoft, you would come up with 666 -- therefore the beast was Windows 98! All these speculations are simply flights of fancy. Until the time actually comes, it will be impossible to know the exact meaning. But when the time comes, it seems those numbers will be significant.

Of interest is the fact that the only other times in the Bible the number 666 is used is when it refers to Solomon’s gold so maybe it indicates someone who is seeking wealth or in charge of a financial empire.

The numbers 666 have no special “evil” power unless Christians wish to adopt pagan beliefs of charms and spells. God invented the laws of the universe including mathematics. The number 666 in Revelation is symbolically representing a person or an evil entity. It has nothing to do with any inherent goodness or evil of the configuration of the numbers.

8. Will Christians know when the end is about to come? Are there any signs given in the Bible to know for sure when the end is near? What should we think about Christian leaders in the past who set dates for Christ’s return but who were wrong?

Christians always seem to want to predict exactly when the end of the world is near. There have been so many false dates set, you’d think people would learn from history. I remember back in 1988 when an author wrote a book, 88 Reasons Jesus Will Come Back in 1988. Even some of my relatives were taken in by his writings. When 1988 passed without Christ’s return, he wrote a second book, 89 Reasons Jesus Will Come Back in 1989! Some people simply can’t resist the temptation of setting dates. So far, all the date setters have proven hopelessly wrong. Christ warned against date setting in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

There are given general signs of when these events might occur. For example, Matthew 24:5-8, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

And Matthew 24:37-39, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

But it needs to be noted that these are general signs that are not very date specific. Early Christians believed these signs were being fulfilled during the early centuries of persecution. Others believed that the outbreak of World War I was the beginning of the end. Instead of spending our energy on trying to set dates, it would be more productive to spend our times telling others about Christ so that whenever Jesus comes back for his church, we will be ready for him.

Footnotes:

This study about the end time © 2000 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New International Version © 1971, Zondervan Bible Publishers

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon pg. 74, Evangel Press

The New Century Dictionary, vol. 2, pg. 1471

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 5, pg. 394 © 1983, Thomas Nelson Publishers

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, electronic version © 1988, Moody Press

Matthew 24:5-8 from the New King James Version © 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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