I had an interesting exchange with a youtuber recently who is busy defending rapture date setting, saying that there’s nothing wrong with it and he knew of no one who had fallen away from the faith because of incorrect rapture dates. I reminded him of William Miller’s “Great disappointment” but he only criticized Miller’s followers, saying there must have been something wrong with them. Considering that Jesus himself actually said no man knows the day or the hour, including himself, I find this interest in rapture date setting a colossal wasteful undertaking.
This led me to seriously question what is going on with all the rapture mania videos on youtube. Everyone and their brother has a video on there claiming that they know the date or the year it is going to happen. It seems to have really taken off with the false predictions made around the “blood moons” last year. Some nationally known “prophecy” teachers came out declaring that the rapture was going to take place because of the three blood moons. Guess they skipped over the verse before that which states the sun would fall out of the sky first. Nothing like taking a verse out of context, both historically and eschatologically. I suppose that Peter the apostle was wrong when he declared that chapter in Joel fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.
Recently there has been a rapture craze surrounding the astronomical alignment back in October of this year that had “prophecy” teachers stating was a fulfillment of Revelation 12. Huh?? Seriously? Now every Dick, Harry and Sally on youtube is talking about the rapture happening this Christmas. Some said it would happen on the 7th day of Hanukkah this year, 120 days after the alignment of the woman in the sky. Well, that date came and went and we’re still here. Then there are others declaring that it will happen by year’s end 2017. Many have had dreams, others visions, others God spoke to them telling them to get ready because the rapture is coming. I pondered this peculiar phenomenon with puzzlement, where so many people are having dreams and visions of something and they are all claiming different dates. That the rapture it is a theory that was invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s, and therefore not a scriptural event, makes this even more bizarre. I finally came up with a name for it and started calling it “Mass Religious Delusional Hysteria”.
But even if the rapture were a real event, I still don’t get the fascination with it. Jesus taught us how to live, not how to get out of here. Anyone who is a student of history would know that the first century believers escaped the siege of Jerusalem and fled to Pella, fulfilling this verse in Matthew 24. This is the only “escape” talk that Jesus gave his followers.
15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ (The corresponding verse in Luke 21 says “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies) spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
We can easily see from the above verse that Jesus was specifically talking about Israel. “Let those in Judea” is about those living there. And where else in the world was the sabbath celebrated when everything closed down and you couldn’t ride your mule? This verse is not talking about a world wide event some time thousands of years in the the future. Jesus was giving a warning to people who were standing right in front of him, some of whom would live through this event in their lifetime. The siege against Jerusalem in 70 ad is the fulfillment of this prophecy and also was a fulfillment of the curses in Deut. 28 where people were eating their own babies to stay alive. (For the historical account look up Flavius Josephus and The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem)
What really gets me is that when you question these rapture date setters or their theory, they attack you with venomous anger. One recently told me that I was a tare and would burn in the fire. Seriously? Because we have a differing eschatology?? You don’t even know me. Guess no one told him that eschatological beliefs were not essentials of salvation. In my world we can agree to disagree. I just want to challenge people to look beyond Dispensationalism and read the bible in its proper context.
So, in light of that I will answer a questions here that I refused to deal with in defending my position in this recent exchange.
I have come to understand that the Bible is very narrowly focused. It is only about man, his fall, God’s people and his redemption through Messiah. It is not a book about the modern world. It is very narrowly focused and purposed. It was written thousands of years ago to people living at that time. We can not take Paul’s letters, for example, and impose them on our society. When Jesus spoke judgment he was focusing on the religious leaders of Israel in Matthew 23, not all of the future world. Even the book of Revelation is about events “near” and “at hand” and “soon to happen”, and calls Jerusalem “Sodom and Egypt where the Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8) It is Israel centric and about events that would take place soon, to the people living in the first century. To push those prophecies into the future is to distort and pervert the text.
In that context let’s look at Matthew 24 and Luke 21. The question posed to me was why would the disciples ask Jesus when he was going to return while he was standing right in front of them? This was in relation to a discussion on a 1st century vs a future fulfillment. At first glance it appears that these two verses contradict each other, but upon examination they actually complete each other.
Matthew 24: 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Firstly, I would like to state that the KJV translators translated the word meaning “age” as “world”. Well, for the Jews it certainly was the end of their world when the Temple was destroyed. Reading the historical accounts of the siege and you can see why this would be called the GREAT tribulation. So sorry to disappoint the dispensationalist, but it will not be the end of our cosmic world in a future tribulation. The end of the “age” was the end of the Old Covenant age under the law of Moses and the ushering in of the eternal kingdom when that event happened in 70 ad. Both “worlds” existed side by side for 40 years, while the first fruits church underwent extreme persecution by both the Jewish leaders and Rome. The writer of the book of Hebrews when comparing the law to the “better things to come” stated “What is Old and perrishing will SOON pass away”. The bible is in complete harmony with the fact that there was an event coming SOON, not in the far distant future, that would change the world.
When you compare Matthew 24:3 with the corresponding verse in Luke 21:6 we get the full understanding of this statement:
“Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
The sign of Jesus’ coming AND the end of the AGE (the restoration of the Kingdom) were BOTH TIED TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE! Not one stone would be left upon another. The sign of Jesus’ coming and the sign when all these things would take place was the destruction of the Temple. This is not talking about the modern state of Israel and a rebuilt temple there. It already happened, and was already fulfilled exactly as Jesus said it would be. Jesus came on the clouds in judgment on the religious leaders of his day who crucified their own Messiah and persecuted his followers by making a pact with Rome to kill all the Christians. The whore of Babylon, the woman who rides the beast was Israel and the Beast was the Roman system.
We should always strive to let scripture interpret itself! Reading the bible in its historical contex fulfills 2 Tim 2:15 Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”