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TWISTED TREATMENTS OF TROUBLING TOPICS – PART’S 1 & 2

TWISTED TREATMENTS OF TROUBLING TOPICS – PART 1

by Gene Lawley

Before getting to the topics, some groundwork should be laid in order to understand the “why” of tackling anything with this article’s brashness. Jude wrote and admonished believers to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) So, how can you contend without being contentious? In another context, Paul wrote, “If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, how shall we prepare ourselves for the battle?”

He also admonished us to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” that we might receive God’s approval. As truth-seekers, we want to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and excelled to greater levels of insight into scriptural truth. However,  as Luke said of the Bereans, “they were more noble than the Thessalonians in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind but searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was so” (Acts 17:11).

It is my understanding that the hallmark of Bible interpretation is this reasoned approach:

The Golden Rule of Interpretation

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicates clearly otherwise.

The consistency and integrity of a context should be adhered to so that confusion and disarray does not render the passage meaningless. Above all, God’s character and method of operation based on predetermined plans must be acknowledged and followed. Specifically, as noted in Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do, or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

In other words and in simplistic terms from man’s viewpoint, God does not wake up some Monday morning and decide, because of the trend of circumstances, that a certain promise made just isn’t working right, so He changes His mind. God’s plans were set in place before time began and unfold according to His “appointed times.”

Now, to the passages to be considered:

The Question of Who Is Judged in Luke 17:26-37

The passage, as follows:

“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Likewise, as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

‘In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.’

And they answered and said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ So He said to them,‘Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.’”

Let’s take it bit by bit. The setting of the scenario “in the days of the Son of Man,” points to a future time that hints of the time called the “Day of the Lord.” That is a period of time, not a single day, beginning with the Rapture of believers and the sudden destruction that follows immediately, as Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, “For you yourselves know perfectly that 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….”

When I first started looking into this topic in view of writing about it, I thought I was contending only with lettered theologians at the seminary level. However, to my amazement, a footnote to the first verse 26 in the Amplified Bible reads, This refers to the beginning of the Millennial kingdom when Christ returns physically and rules on earth.”

There is more in its parenthetic expansions of meaning in the context and in other footnotes that lead me to conclude that the translators did so according to their pre-conceived notions of what the passage is about. For instance, where in Revelation 20 or Zechariah 14 (two chapters that deal with the Millennial kingdom) can you find any indication of a scenario “as it was in the days of Noah?”

Let’s continue. It was business as usual, right up to the time Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” Where was the judgment? It was right there, starting in Noah’s front yard, and Noah and his family were taken away from that judgment. Those left behind were victims of the judgment.

A parallel passage for this part of the context is found in Matthew 24:36-44, and it follows the same thought process. The judgment comes upon those left behind. It is a fact, incidentally, that all of the judgments having to do with the end times, including those told in the book of Revelation, are all done here on the earth—think about it! Believers are taken out in the Rapture and those remaining here will endure the judgments of those seven years of the tribulation. None are taken out somewhere else for judgment.

Next we see the plight of Lot and his family in Sodom. The astounding picture of those taken out of the way of judgment while those left behind are the victims of judgment cannot be denied, honestly. The account also demonstrates the completeness of God’s redemption and justification not based on man’s performance—Lot had no noticeable good works to acclaim. It is also a clear rejection of the “partial rapture” theory, that only the obedient and faithful will be transformed at the Rapture.

Lot was even resistant to efforts of the angels to get him out of the city so they could carry out their assignment of judging the city. (See the full account in Genesis 19.)

Was Lot taken to judgment? No, obviously not, so “as it was in the days of Lot, so it will be in the day of the coming of the Son of Man,” and those taken away are not taken to judgment!

The next part of the context is a warning to believers that when He comes there will be no time for anything, like packing a bag, saying “goodbye,” or even looking back! That very picture ties this passage with the description Paul gives of the transformation called the Rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53:

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

The conclusion is this: When Jesus comes, we are out of here! That warning in the Luke passage is to believers, not non-believers, obviously, for the Lord does not spend any time on the welfare of non-believers. His outlook on them in that scenario is, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you!”

Then the section begins where the theologians have decided that Jesus has switched directions on the straight-forward flow of consistency and integrity of the account. Yet, there is no change in the continuity of the thought line. In Luke’s account, above, Jesus continues with, “I tell you in that night…,” when the warning is given to those who are taken, not to look back. And then He tells of the different situations where one is taken and the other is left.

I must say, here, that it is deeply troubling that there is such a senseless and insistent  interpretation that one is taken away to judgment and the other is left behind…and no one can say what happens to them, with any balanced Scriptural support. So, I have these questions:

Where is the judgment they are taken to and of what does it consist?

If the setting is as described, “as it was in the days of Noah, and of Lot,” and those two were not taken to judgment, why are you declaring that the opposite is now true?

If you noticed, each paragraph of the Luke narrative starts out inseparably linked to the former paragraph. Here are those first words:

“As it was in the days of Noah….”

“Likewise, as it was in the days of Lot….”

“In that day, he who is on the housetop….”

“I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed….”

You can see therefore that the same people who are in those first “as it was in the days of Noah and Lot” groupings are those of whom He warns them not to turn back and from whom one is taken and one is left. If Noah and Lot are taken to safety and not judgment, then so are the others who are taken.

The righteous are never taken to judgment, and in a sense, neither are the unrighteous. Judgment comes to them, as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot. Those left behind experienced the judgment that God brought to them.

When the disciples asked Jesus, “Where are they taken?” the answer He gives is perhaps the main reason for the reversal of direction that is often taught as proper interpretation of the passage. That verse is mysterious beyond expression and very strangely leaves the reader with a “What, say that again” reaction. He said this, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Luke 17:37).

Why such a strange answer that seems to complicate an otherwise straight-forward narrative? One Bible analyst would tell us, perhaps, that it is in keeping with God’s way of hiding the gospel throughout the Scriptures so that the enemies of Christ cannot easily find and corrupt it. Perhaps it is also a way to weed out those who are not very serious in their pursuit of the truth, a test for those who would like to think they are “rightly dividing the Word of truth.”

If one is intent on maintaining consistency and integrity of the context, as I have indicated earlier, he cannot possibly come up with an interpretation that is contrary to the setting which begins the account—“as it was in the days of Noah.”

Many of the translations render His response as, “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” Yet, many others, apparently having already made up their minds by the time they get to this verse that those taken are taken away to judgment, come up with this result, “where the corpse, or dead body, is, there the vultures will be gathered.”

If the Golden Rule of Interpretation has any merit with its emphasis on the use of common sense, it seems to have been lost with those latter translations of the verse. Let’s face it, eagles are not vultures or buzzards. Eagles are of the birds of prey family and do not find their food where dead bodies are located. The stature of an eagle displays a likeness to the stature of a believer in Christ, of strength, perseverance, integrity, quality of character.

And if those taken away are taken together with the body of Christ, as at the Rapture, we have consistency with the whole passage. God’s judgment, in the eternal sense, seems to point to a solitary, individual manner where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth in outer darkness.” There is never a sense of them gathering together. It is a time of abject loneliness and suffering, forever and ever!

So, the twisted treatments of these tenants of truth are deeply troubling to me, and possibly also to the reader. James writes this caution, “…Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). I, too, hear that caution.

(The topic will be continued in Part 2.)

Contact email:  [email protected]

 

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TWISTED TREATMENTS OF TROUBLING TOPICS – PART 2

By Gene Lawley

In the prior article, Part 1, I mentioned the idea of standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before so as to reach up and out for further enlightenment of truth. However, when we see how the development of false doctrines mushroomed after that first century when the canon of Holy Scripture, as later decided, was fully completed, those shoulders we stand on must be carefully selected.

 I must say that my position is Pre-Tribulation, Pre-Millennial, born-again of God, once saved, always saved, and none of it because someone else of mortal men have told me so.

I referred to Jude’s concern that believers “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Further thought reveals that Jude wrote his one-chapter letter after Peter wrote his second epistle, which was about A.D. 66. Thus, it was at least 35 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and Jude points us to a body of faith that had already been given to the saints, once for all.”

Perhaps part of the difficulty encountered by some of those “early church fathers,” on whose shoulders we are expected to stand, can be linked to the prophecy of Daniel in the last chapter of his book:

“”But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).

Also, it seems that Psalm 119:130 encases a wealth of truth that we often forget after wading into deeper and more seemingly sophisticated waters:

“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”

The word, “simple,” simply means uncomplicated, or child-like, thus supporting the idea that a child-like faith more readily links a person to a vibrant faith in God. That kind of faith—that kind of outlook—must be our mindset when approaching the Word of God. It might be wise at this point to repeat that basic guideline for Bible interpretation, which I posted in Part 1. The Golden Rule of Interpretation was brought to my attention years ago by Kit R. Olsen:

The Golden Rule of Interpretation

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicates clearly otherwise.

The second of the issues being considered:

Could Jesus Really Come at Any Time?

The doctrine is called the Doctrine of Imminence and basically holds that Jesus could return at any time to take His own from the earth—the Rapture—at the beginning of the seven years of Tribulation at the end of the age. The controlling Scripture is the statement of Jesus recorded in several instances, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

Peter wrote his second epistle about A.D. 66, and in it he mentions that scoffers would be asking in the last days, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Apparently they were already asking that question, though in derision.

Why, then, has He not come?

What could be some of the reasons He has not come?

  1. The vision of Daniel and its prophecy of future kingdoms of the earth, tied with John’s revelation of a seven-headed beast with ten toes, with the seventh head and ten toes not yet formed, and is bringing forward the prophecy of Daniel;
  2. Daniel’s prophecy of a confirmation of a covenant of seven years that would allow the Jews to rebuild their temple;
  3. The prophecy of Daniel that the temple and its holy place would be desecrated by one who would declare himself God, as also prophesied by Paul;
  4. The promise of God to the Jews that He would return them to their ancient homeland, gathering them out of all nations where they were scattered;
  5. In setting aside the Jewish people for a time, He promised to take out of the Gentiles a people for His name and would do so until “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”(Romans 11:25; Luke 21:24).

Actually, on thinking about it, if Jesus had come in an earlier year, say A.D. 1120, just to pick a random year, a lot of promises He has made and many historical events would not have happened, events that actually bear upon those promises.

If Jesus had come then, what would the situation have looked like after He had taken the believers out of the world, and the Antichrist took over…?

So, what is going on here?

Is this claim really the capstone of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, making that position one of strong stature?

Does it not stand firmly on Scripture for its own truthfulness? 

Jesus told parables that warned of impending accountability checkup at His return, ending them with “therefore watch, for you do not know at what hour your Master will return.” One prophecy advocate claimed it is a sin to delve into the matter of “when will Jesus return.” I must ask, then, for what are we to watch, as Jesus warned? I do believe that no man knows the day or the hour of His coming,” but how does Scripture deal with what happens after that? Perhaps the wisdom of Solomon gives us some license to look into these matters:

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2).

Is there a gap of time between when He comes and takes His body of believers out of this world and those events that follow after they are gone? The answer is given in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3:

“For you yourselves know perfectly that 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.”

(Did you catch the clue to look for when “watching,” and thought of Daniel 9:27 and that peace covenant that will be confirmed?)

Immediate chaos, immediate calamity, immediate destruction! Just like Jesus spoke of in Luke 17:26-37, which was the passage considered in Part 1 of this article topic. There, as soon as Noah was safe in the ark, the flood came; as soon as Lot was out of the city, fire and brimstone fell upon the city. Is there any Scriptural indication of a point in time when our attention is called for in regard to when Jesus is coming?

 Strangely overlooked is Luke 21:28, telling us, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

What things? We have been told for many years that nothing had to happen before Jesus could return. Imminence left no place for intervening events. But remember that list, earlier, of the five promises of events that were future and locked in place by an unchangeable promise of God. The context of that verse in Luke is dealing with the signs of the coming of the Son of Man, and the section following it is that familiar parable of the fig tree.

That parable pinpoints a time in history that is pivotal in regard to the return of Jesus. It unfolds like this, in Luke 21:29-33:

“Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

The next part of that context gets down to business on the importance of “watching,” seemingly as if there had not been centuries since He had expressed that prior warning to watch, “for you don’t know what hour your Lord may come.”

The problem is that we are bound by time and God is not, as Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:8, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” How long has this Luke passage been in our New Testament? Obviously, since it was first written by Luke.

The identity of the fig tree in the parable is considered to be the nation of Israel, and that event began to unfold in May, 1948. It is the awakening of that valley of dry bones told about in Ezekiel 37.

It is God’s answer to that last question the disciples had for Jesus just as He was ready to ascend into the heavens, recorded in Acts 1:6-7, “‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.’”

That question and its answer are not directly related to the return of Jesus but often are linked to it. Israel is often spoken of as being “God’s timepiece” for viewing the timing of end-time events and yet, it is a strange wonder how all these signs and events can be held in one hand, so to speak, and in the other, a staunch belief that Jesus could come at any time. It is clear that man’s individual life-span of the “threescore years and ten,” plus more in many cases, has been and will be more likely to happen at any time.

In that passage of the fig tree’s blooming, we also learn that the generation that sees that happening will be the terminal generation, the last one before Jesus returns. We know now, therefore, that His coming is hovering over us, and our watching and readiness is of prime importance. Even the writer of Hebrews 10:24-25, without special emphasis, issued this directive to us:

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The question it raises is this: If believers can see the Day approaching, how is it that Jesus may come at any time? Paul also takes that position of believers knowing the coming of the Lord will not be a total surprise:

“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).

In the total context of 1 Thessalonians 4:15 to 5:4, the references to Day and Day of the Lord, along with “as a thief in the night,” have to do with the pre-tribulation Rapture of believers. When the “day and hour” comes, it will come suddenly and “like a thief in the night.” The unbelieving world will have no expectation of it.

But we are not done, yet, with this issue; the drawstring of the bag of gathered evidence cannot be pulled tighter just yet.

When Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour but My Father in heaven,” the reference to “day and hour” was not a loosely framed period of time in the meaning of His projection, apparently. It would be a specific day and hour of His “appointed time,” not “someday” or “whenever.”

True, He used the statement of “times and seasons,” as did Paul in his writing to the Thessalonians, and those two references in Acts 1 and 1 Thessalonians 5 encompass  the series of events of the end times.

In the rarely mentioned impact of the place the seven feasts of Israel is an interesting reality that bears directly upon the specifics of that “no one knows the day or the hour” statement of Jesus. In those seven feasts that have been on the Hebrew calendar since God gave them to Moses, recorded in Leviticus 23, all have a specific beginning day except for one.

That one requires a person to physically view the new moon in the sky and report back to the leaders that fact. If it is covered by clouds, the feast does not start that day. (Remember that Jewish days begin at sunset and end at sunset the next day.)

God the Father is in charge of the weather, and He, only, knows where the clouds will be. But for mankind, no one knows the day or the hour.” That only makes sense when we realize that feast of the seven is the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah, which begins the Jewish civil New Year with a new moon and its festive activities portray the Rapture of the saints.

We know from multiple sources of Scripture that God has foreknowledge of all world events even before creation. Titus 1:2 tells us that God, who cannot lie, promised the gift of eternal life before time began. So, does God make promises which He does not intend to keep? We must say, emphatically, “Of course not!”

How, then, do those promises made centuries ago and are now coming to pass, such as the promise to return the Israelites to their ancient homeland, match with the contention that Jesus could come at any time?

Can anyone point to a Scripture that specifically says that Jesus can come at any time?

The abiding fear of God is already a wonderfully well-placed principle for discipline, if that is the theory’s real purpose.

What about those five promises listed earlier in this article, most of which are yet to be fulfilled? It was the same Jesus, saying, “No one knows the day or the hour” who also told us, in Luke’s gospel, “When you see these things begin to happen, look up for your redemption draws near.” If we are going to respond to God’s admonition in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “rightly divide the Word of Truth,” how are we going to handle this obvious contradiction in what we say and what the Bible says?

Now, “as we see the Day approaching,” that is, we see that chief end-time antagonist, Satan, getting his game pieces in place on the chessboard, it is hard not to long for that startling cry from the King of kings, “Checkmate!” Or in biblical terms, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

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