I was asked, the other day, by a reasonable yet concerned Christian, whether “we believers would go into the “Tribulation”, that there might not be a “rapture”?
It seems that that the coincidence of current events and biblical prophetical passages has many concerned about whether or not the time of “the Day of the Lord”, what some simply call the “end times”, is near? And if so, then what should Christians do?
Let me begin my response with a necessary explanation of terms. As many of you know, many Christians believe there will be a “rapture” of “The Church”. Now the term “church” is a group term for all true Christians, while the term “rapture” is a belief, developed from several scripture references, that believers will, preemptive to God’s judgment, be whisked away from the planet by a supernatural yet literal evacuation, by the Lord Jesus, Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 3:10). This is believed to be an appropriate “keeping”, from trouble, for those who believe in Jesus; as the “Day of the Lord” is a biblical term that describes the extended period of God’s judgment for those who have rejected Him (See Joel 2:1-3; Zephaniah 1:14-18; Matthew 24:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). I am, personal, a subscriber of such a doctrine; “the Rapture of the Church”.
With that in mind, then, the concern of many Christians is a “what if” scenario. Essentially they are wondering two things; “what if there is no rapture and we are stuck here with the non-believers who defiantly resist God, experiencing some of their judgment?” And “what should we do to stay away from as much of the trouble of those days as possible; if it’s possible”?
Furthermore, many bible students, who read of the anguish parts of Old Testament prophecy, concerning Israel, wonder if those passages apply any longer and might be symbolic and applicable for the Church, today? In other worlds, does Israel still stand to be judged or punished, “refined”, by God and do Christians deserve similar Divine chastisement for our faith failings as sinners, just like Israel; even though we’re saved by grace?
Well, let me respond with a series of responses. And let me start with the last question first, as it will provide both the biblical and historical basis for my answer to the question about what is going to happen to Christians.
First and foremost, the Church is not a spiritualized Israel. They are both literal, yet different intensities, and both have specific, separate, histories as well as prophetical futures; which are spelled out in Scripture. Therefore, the prophecies which pertain to Israel have a specific application and fulfillment for the Jew. And the passages of scripture which address the Church of Jesus Christ have a separate application and fulfillment.
Furthermore, Israel has a history that began in Genesis with Abram (Genesis 12) and one that continues until the end of the Millennial Kingdom (Zechariah 14; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelations 20). And the church has a much more limited history, beginning on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2) and ending before Israel enters the “Tribulation” and then the Millennial Kingdom. The Church’s time line is broadly known as the time of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). This “time” is the only time that the masses of Gentiles will be saved and joined to the “common wealth of Israel”, that is part of the redeemed and believing community of God’s household (Ephesians 2:11-22).
The conclusion I draw, then is that God was punishing Israel for her rejection of the Messiah (Christ) when He came to call them to salvation in the first century (Matthew 23:37-25:41). That was their second time of Judgment for their failure to follow God’s covenant. They were dispersed from their homeland the first time in 605bc, by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, and spent 70 years in exile before returning to Israel in 526bc.
The second season of God’s chastisement, of Israel, began in 70AD, when Judea was invaded and Jerusalem razed by the Roman conqueror, Titus, forcing the “diaspora of Israel” throughout the world and alienated from their homeland until 1947.
In 1947 everything changed on both the historical as well as prophetical calendar for Israel. After centuries of exile, countless horrors of persecution by gentile nations and culminating in the great holocaust at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi the Germany, the world community, led by Great Britain and the USA, came together to carve out a small beachhead of land, in the old Israeli territory, to grant Israel a homeland – the first return to the area of their birthright since 70ad.
Yes, indeed, by agreement of the League of Nations (predecessor to the UN), that “rebirth”, which was ratified by the Israeli Knesset, May, 1948 inaugurated a new salvific period for God’s “chosen” people and began the countdown toward the “Day of the Lord”.
That historical fact synchronizes with prophecy (Ezekiel 36, 37) and means one certain thing – Israel’s time away from her homeland is, forever, over; and God’s punishment too. Her prophetic history has only one major event yet to occur, one that will drive her into the arms of The Messiah – who is Jesus. That event is the Gog/Magog war, when Russian and the surrounding Arabs nations attack her; followed by the “peace treaty” brokered by the anti-Christ (Daniel 9:27) and the inauguration of the 7 year period of “Jacobs trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), known more popularly as “The Tribulation” (Matthew 24; Revelation 4-18). At the end of this series of “end time” events Israel will repent of her unbelief, recognize Jesus as The, and her, Messiah, throw her trust onto Him and be saved, entering the Millennial reign of Christ as predicted in scripture.
Therefore, all other past punishment, prophecy, passages about Israel, are just that – past. Israel can now look forward to God’s protection from her enemies, His relative peace and prosperity (despite anti-Semitic persecution) and the end of His chastening; except for such events as will move Israel toward acknowledgment and acceptance of her Messiah, Jesus (Revelation 7)!
Now, what about us Christians?
Well, this is the “time of the gentiles”, so this is our time to know Christ and prepare to serve with Him in the Millennium (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Therefore, we who are fortunate to know Christ, personally, in salvation, must by all means, make Him known to others while we still have the opportunity. Yet, while we do, we will often encounter resistance, even persecution or martyrdom as we pursue the “commission” of our faith (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 7:54-60; 14:22; Revelations 6:9; 12:10).
As a result, I reckon that scriptures present the following view. To be continued…