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Living in the Age of Signs

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Discussion of the End Times and the Rapture can raise questions, apprehension, and fear. "Why do I need to study prophecy?" "It is too complicated, and I don't understand what it means." "It makes me anxious." Even for long–time Christians, prophecy can seem overwhelmingly complex. At first glance, passages written two thousand years ago appear disconnected from modern life. But if we accept this limited perspective, we will miss the rich truth God has provided for us. We cannot understand where we are now if we do not understand where we are going.

As we delve into this challenging subject, let's explore biblical answers to four of the most frequently asked questions about the Rapture.

1. What signs indicate that the End Times are near?

The Rapture—the raising of the Church into heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17)—is the next event on the prophetic calendar. The following four signs suggest the Rapture is near.

The Sign of Deception
Many people will claim to be the Messiah and claim to have the answers for a troubled world. Jesus says to "take heed"—literally to keep our eyes open so we are not fooled. In the End Times, people will be crying desperately for leaders to deliver them, and they will seek mystics and religious leaders who claim to have deeper knowledge.

The Sign of Disputes Among Nations
The book of Revelation tells us that the Tribulation will be filled with war—ceaseless, unending, terrible war—that will escalate until the entire world is involved. As we move toward the End Times, there will be increasing conflicts, border skirmishes, race wars, and national battles.

The Sign of Devastation
Today, millions of people in the world are going hungry, even though God has blessed our planet with abundance. Famine will intensify as the Rapture draws near. Scripture also anticipates increasing earthquakes, which has been confirmed by science. Finally, Christ spoke of pestilence, and our world is already experiencing the spread of tragic, uncontrollable new diseases.

The Sign of Deliverance Into the Tribulation
Just before Jesus returns, there will be an explosion of persecution. This is occurring today with the rise of radical Islam and its aggression against Christians in the Middle East. As we draw closer to the end, many will pay a high price for living out their faith.

2. Why should I avoid determining a date and time for the Rapture?

The fact is, we cannot calculate the day Christ will return for His Church because God has specifically chosen not to reveal it to us.

When the apostles asked Jesus about the future, He replied, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:7–8).

Only God knows the time, and only He knows when time will run out. Future truth impacts our present responsibility. The knowledge that He is coming soon should put urgency into our step and determination into our service.

3. Will I be a part of the Rapture if my body is cremated?

When Scripture says, "The dead in Christ will rise," it is speaking of the bodily resurrection of believers. At that time, the spirits of believers will be united with their perfect and complete resurrection bodies. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).

If God can accomplish the hard work of calling creation into existence through His spoken words, then it will be no problem for Him to call back the bodies of those who have been swept into the sea, or consumed by fire, or maimed by the attacks of an enemy.

4. What will happen in heaven after the Rapture?

After the Rapture, Christians will come before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgment will not determine whether we are able to enter heaven. Our sins have already been forgiven through the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It will, however, be a time to account for the works we have accomplished on earth, and we will be rewarded accordingly. We will receive positions of authority in the coming Millennium based upon our faithfulness to God while on this earth and for the influence we left behind.

There is so much relevant truth to be discovered in the Bible's prophetic passages! Studying God's plan for the future can help determine what side we will be on when Christ returns. By understanding the Rapture and the events of tomorrow, we will change our view of today!

Daily Devotions

Today's Devotion: The Labyrinth of Life

The Krubera Cave in the Arabika Massif is one of the world’s largest caves. It’s so deep, so beautiful, and so complex that only skilled cavers can descend to its subterranean depths. It contains rivers, lakes, springs, and pits descending deep into the earth—a labyrinth of wonder, filled with deadly charms.

The same God who created the intricate interiors of earth also designed the mysterious blueprint of our life. Sometimes the mysteries appear deep and dark. But when we give our life to Christ, it’s as though a switch is flipped on, flooding the way with light. The Lord knows every twist and turn, every rock and river. When we don’t know the way, we needn’t worry. He does, and He will lead us. Even the darkness will become light around us.

This is the theme of Psalm 139—the Lord knows the way through the labyrinth of life. Our finite minds will never fully grasp God’s complex blueprints, but as we seek His will, He will lead us.

How precious also are thy thoughts, O gracious God, to me! And in their sum how passing great and numberless they be!
The Scottish Metrical Psalter (Psalm 139:17)

This is one of prophecy's greatest misconceptions. The Rapture and the Second Coming are often confused, but they are distinct events, with distinct purposes, on God's prophetic timeline.

At the Rapture, Jesus will return for His saints.
At the Second Coming, He will return with His saints.

At the Rapture, Jesus will not descend to earth.
At the Second Coming, He will descend to the Mount of Olives as a prelude to His earthly reign.

At the Rapture, Jesus will bring a blessing for His saints.
At the Second Coming, He will bring judgment for those who have rejected Him.

The Rapture could occur at any moment.
The Second Coming will occur seven years later.

When the Rapture occurs, Christ will take every deceased and every living Christian to heaven with Him. Paul describes this glorious event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

The Rapture will protect God's saints from the Tribulation—the seven years of judgment that will be poured out on earth between the Rapture and the Second Coming. There are some who argue the Tribulation period will begin before the Rapture. However, the Bible says that "there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1), which suggests the Church will not experience God's judgment during the Tribulation.

Seven years after the Rapture, Jesus will return to earth in the event known as the Second Coming. His return will be entirely different from His arrival in Bethlehem as a humble Child. When Christ returns, He will appear as the exalted King of the universe, surrounded by His saints. The powers of evil will be quickly defeated at the Battle of Armageddon, and then Christ will establish His everlasting kingdom on earth.

For a more thorough study of the Rapture and the Second Coming, read chapters 12 and 27 in The Book of Signs.

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

The Rapture of the Redeemed

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

As He prepared to leave this world, Jesus told His disciples He would return and take them to the place He had prepared for them. Later, the apostle Paul provided the details of this event. Since it could happen at any time, the Rapture is a strong motivation for a consecrated, expectant life.

The Rapture of the Church is the next event on God's prophetic timeline. It is one of the great hopes of the Christian faith, and it is shrouded in mystery. When will it occur? What will it be like? What does the Bible tell us about the Rapture? These eight Bible passages provide the best information we have about Jesus Christ's imminent return and Rapture of the Church.

The Blessed Hope

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me [Jesus]. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.

John 14:1–4

Diligent Waiting (A Parable)

A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, "Engage in business until I come."

When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, "Lord, your mina has made ten minas more." And he said to him, "Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities."

Luke 19:12–13, 15–17 (ESV, emphasis added)

Watchful Waiting

The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

1 Thessalonians 5:2–6

Eager Waiting

As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Hebrews 9:27–28

Dead Men Walking

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. . . . The dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, 16

The Mysterious Transformation

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51–52

Transformation Into the Likeness of Christ

Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Philippians 3:20–21

A Grand Exit

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:15–17

The Bible is God's story of redemption and reconciliation. It has a beginning and an end. In our modern translations, some of the books are not organized in chronological order, but we've got the beginning and ending placed correctly. Genesis marks the beginning of time, and Revelation marks the end. Many translations highlight the words of Jesus Christ in red. Do you know what the final red–letter words of Jesus are? "Surely I am coming quickly" (Revelation 22:20). And the response of our heart echoes that of the apostle John, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20)

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