While Christians agree on the fulfillment of prophecy relating to Jesus’ first coming, such harmony quickly disappears when the subject switches to prophecies related to His return to earth.
As one who has spent many decades in the midst of the fray, I can attest to the pressing need to defend our biblical hope from attacks on the part of those outside as well as within the church. Whatever the source, they all seek to undermine our expectation of Jesus’ soon return, our return to earth with Jesus after the tribulation, and our reign with Him in His millennium kingdom, which happens before the eternal state.
Many Bible-believing pastors, teachers, and writers who oppose such things begin with a misguided view of God’s covenants, one that eliminates the distinction between Israel and the church. They retrofit His promises to Israel so that they apply “spiritually” to the church.
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Believers who do not know how to defend the book of Revelation can become easy prey for those who seek to rob them of its message of comfort and hope.
Why do I make such a seemingly outrageous claim?
It’s because some pastors of Bible-believing churches relegate much of the book of Revelation to allegory. While they preserve the prophetic nature of some things, they taint the book with uncertainty through their allegorical approach.
Was John’s work in recording what the Lord revealed to him on the barren island of Patmos a labor of love that remains a source of much needed hope and comfort for us today? Or, did he intend for us to regard its judgments and scenes of a glorious future as symbolism with no definitive fulfillment?
Does the study of prophecy add value to the lives of believers they could not receive apart from it? Is it worth the effort talk about our future hope despite the controversy that rages over it today?
Yes, absolutely! The Lord provided us with prophecies regarding Israel, the rapture, and Second Coming throughout Scripture; the last book speaks almost exclusively about future things. The volume of space given to prophecy in the Bible tells us its study has great value for us.
Here are five key reasons for talking about the specifics of our hope:
Those who follow my blog (click here) know I often write about Israel’s continued place in God’s prophetic program.
Why do I do this? Why not just write about the signs and our immanent hope in Jesus’ return as I often do? Why defend Israel’s place in God’s prophetic program?
It’s precisely because our expectation of Jesus’ soon return is so important that I defend Israel’s future role in prophecy. Israel is the focal point where on one side we have those who believe the rapture is near and on the other side those who dismiss our hope in Jesus’ soon return.
Why is Israel so vital to our future hope? The future of Israel . . .
In my previous post, I began listing reasons why we should regard the rapture as a separate event from the Second Coming. Much confusion ensues when believers combine them.
I know many pastors and teachers in Bible-believing churches combine the rapture and Second Coming into one event. For this reason I am including a section from my book (as of yet unpublished) here and on my blog explaining why we must see them as separate events.
As in part 1, please note: In making my distinctions between the rapture and second coming, I assume a premillennial belief. Without beliefs in a literal seven year tribulation, Jesus return to earth after this time, and the setting of a millennial rule that includes Israel, these distinctions would not make much sense.
We live in a time when believers are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). This is especially true in regard to the return of Jesus. Today, we face a myriad of differing “schemes” regarding the rapture and other end time events.
How do we find our way in the midst of such confusion? It’s the words of the Bible that keep us grounded in truth.
This is especially true regarding the rapture, the return of Jesus to take us to the place He is preparing for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). Many expositors today combine the rapture with the Second Coming. I believe the Bible teaches that they are separate events.
Caleb could scarcely believe his eyes; the Egyptian army was advancing slowly but surely toward his city. From his vantage point high on the wall, he identified their flag in the distant horizon just as the sun rose in the sky. They would be at the city walls by sunset!
. . . . Other watchmen who saw the danger and joined Caleb in sounding the alarm, but so few responded. The city officials could not be bothered with the report of the advancing army.
The prevailing mindset of many Bible-believing pastors today is that eschatology, or the study of future things, is not only separate from the preaching of Gospel but detracts from it. They maintain that our task of fulfilling the Great Commission excludes teaching on prophecy, which they believe only confuses believers and stirs up unwelcome controversy.
Is this way of thinking biblical? No, it is not. This represents a myopic way of viewing both the commands and teachings of Jesus, who highlighted “eternal life” as the result of belief in Him and commanded His followers to watch for His return.
Let’s explore these things in more detail.
Jesus Emphasized Eternal Life
Jesus emphasized eternity throughout His earthly ministry. . . .
We hear so many differing viewpoints today regarding our hope of forever. Some reject the notion that anything physical can be spiritual or godly and on that basis deny our hope of reigning with Christ in a physical kingdom. The Bible, however, flatly rejects such thinking.
As believers seeking God’s wisdom, what does the Bible say about our future? What are the basics that can place us on firm footing amidst the myriad of false teaching that surrounds us today?
Below I list five items that I believe are the rock bottom basics of our biblical hope. For each, I start with the words of Jesus and then provide support from what He also revealed about our future from other places in Scripture.
1. Jesus’ Appearing
If I were to sum up our eternal hope in one word, it would be “Jesus.”
We live in exciting times that are also quite sad. We possess great hope for what lies ahead, yet at the same time we remain fearful of what the next year or two might bring for America. We rejoice in the signs that point to the soon return of our Lord Jesus, yet we cannot help but mourn for what those who reject Jesus might soon experience.
Lest you think I’m crazy or perhaps suffering from a split personality disorder, let me explain my thoughts in this matter.
The War on Our Children
My sadness comes as I look at what is happening in this land I love. I see wickedness that exceeds everything I could have imagined twenty years ago. Not only do we murder babies in the wombs, we sell parts of their bodies to the highest bidder. The LBGQT assault on our school age children is abominable and evil.