The end of the world is getting a lot of buzz in the news and on the internet this week. Preachers, prognosticators and quasi-religious scholars have been interviewed to discuss whether or not the rapture and Armageddon is scheduled for this weekend (5/21/2011).
Many people are amused by this conversation, writing it off as craziness without giving it a second thought. Some are seriously concerned that the date is set and that they need to be prepared and then there are those whose curiosity concerning the subject has opened them up to searching the scriptures for what the Book actually says.
The disciples of the Lord Jesus had questions concerning the end of the world.
Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)
My purpose in this message is to share what the scriptures have to say and to hopefully answer some questions you may have concerning this very significant future event.
A few biblical facts:
- Is the world going to end? Yes.
- Is there going to be a rapture, where Christians disappear from the world? Yes
- Are there predictions in the Bible concerning what will happen prior to the world ending? Yes
- Have many of these predictions or signs been fulfilled at this time? Yes.
- Is there a secret code in the Bible that reveals the day and time of the Rapture of the Church, Armageddon or the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? No.
The best teaching on this subject is scripture. I am going to list a lot of it:
The Rapture of the Church:
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
The orthodox view of the Rapture places this event prior to the seven years of tribulation prophesied by Daniel and John in the book of Revelation. There are smaller groups of believers who hold that the Rapture will take place either 3 ½ years into the tribulation or at the end of the tribulation period. Volumes have been written concerning this subject.
The Date and the Time:
Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:36)
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
Jesus clearly states that no person knows the day or the hour when these things will happen. Any person, preacher, church, etc. that claims they know the day is directly opposing the word of Jesus Christ. So… if the teaching that you have heard declares the day and time concerning the rapture of the church or the return of Jesus Christ just know that Jesus in Matthew 24 declares the teaching to be false.
There are many godly and biblical teachings on the signs of the times; concerning the events that will lead up to the rapture of the church, the beginning of the tribulation period and eventually the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Studying and teaching these events is a sound thing to do but they must always but kept in the context of the Bible and maintain a core focus of bringing the Gospel of Christ to those who have yet to believe.
And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16)
Let the nations be called to arms. Let them march to the valley of Jehoshaphat. There I, the Lord, will sit to pronounce judgment on them all. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people. Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive. (Joel 3:12-14)
Armageddon is a subject that has been taught, written about and discussed by preachers, authors, film makers, politicians and regular people like ourselves for centuries. It is the final war between the armies of the world and the God of heaven. Scripture teaches us that this war will take place at the end of the 7 years of tribulation prophesied in Daniel and Revelation. Armageddon is one of the last events preceding the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11)
Jesus is returning to the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords to establish His kingdom and to execute judgment and justice upon the earth. The Bible teaches this event follows the Rapture of the Church, the seven years of Great Tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon. This is the event that will begin the millennial reign of Christ to be followed by the Great White Throne Judgment and the revealing of a New Heaven and a New Earth.
The study of these events in theology is known as eschatology. I love to study these parts of scripture. It is these events that are the final destination of our faith. This is the place we are longing to end up; heaven.
These events cause many people to panic and wonder where they are on the prophetic time clock and what will happen to them if and when they take place. Many Christians have asked people the question, “if Jesus Christ were to return today are you ready to meet Him?”
At the core of confusion for most people concerning these events are not the details of prophecy. Most people that have fear, confusion or apprehension concerning the rapture of the church or the return of the Lord Jesus do so because their relationship with and standing before God is in question.
The most frightening verses in scripture are these:
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:17)
Like it or not; believe it or not. The Bible teaches that each of us will stand before Almighty God to be judged for the life that we have led and it is this fact that causes us to tremble at the thought of death. It is this fact that causes us to be fearful concerning the rapture and the second coming.
What have I done or not done? What have I said or not said? What can I say concerning my life when I stand before the omniscient Lord of glory who is absolutely holy? There will be no excuses on that day. There will be no explaining away or justifying decisions I have made based on my situational ethics. We will stand completely exposed before the one who completely knows us.
Our only hope is the grace of Jesus Christ. Our only hope is the payment He made with His blood for the sins we have committed. Our only hope is our faith in Him.
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
- Will the world end today (5/21/2011) at 6 pm? It is highly unlikely.
- Will you survive and live long enough to experience the rapture, the tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ? It is possible.
- Will you die and stand before God to give an account of your life and be judged? Absolutely.
This is the question that drives the discussion concerning the end of days. You and I are mortal. You and I are sinners. You and I cannot justify ourselves or save ourselves. Each of us needs the grace of Jesus Christ. We need mercy and forgiveness so that we may experience the salvation that Jesus died upon the cross to provide.
If you are worried about the end of days or simply the end of your days I implore you to receive Jesus Christ so that you may know that you are ready to stand before Him.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)