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The year was 1995 – two authors had a winner. Their books would speak of missing flight crews, spirited from their planes. More National Enquirer than seminary stuff, to this the duo added details never found in Scripture – a great soul harvest, raptured Pope, and the antidote to the Antichrist, a Tribulation Force.
The end would justify the means, roping in the unsuspecting, that few be left behind. LaHaye would gross a million dollars writing of this Rapture, stirring up a holy war, waged by two armed camps.
One side gives their ten percent, a pass to concerts, banquets, plays, and things like Jazzercise. They will willingly pay to hear LaHaye, with martyrdom a thing of the past, for we are a Christian Nation. No blood will flow – the Lord will come and spare them the fate of James.
On the other side are the knowing ones, too wise to embrace two Second Comings, willing to wait to the bitter end, enduring trumpets and vials. They will not be deceived by Darby and Scofield, those prophets of easy belief.
Yet their eschatology has some holes, with Revelation an allegory, a preview of past attractions. The sun was dark, the moon blood when Titus sacked the city of God for defying God and king. The only verse of which they are sure reads, “…called, chosen, and faithful.”
Like the great debate over church and state, both sides appeal to the so-called fathers, quoting sources beyond our reach, that we cannot verify. Each claims Tertullian was on their side, with Irenaeus, Origen, Cyprian, and Ephrem the Syrian.
And Darby’s fans have not helped their cause, with that title derived from the Latin. For in Greek, it is not en-raptured delight, but a violent snatching away. As the loving apostle found on Christ’s breast was also the son of thunder, so harpazo is Paul being plucked from the Jews, before they can tear him apart.
And Peter has thrown in a monkey wrench in his sermon at Pentecost. He appears to agree with the Preterists, who say it has all been fulfilled. In mentioning signs in the heavens above, he tells them, “This is the day…”
Yet those who cling with great zeal to election and the perseverance of saints are hurt by a lack of appreciation for Peter’s burden for souls. In quoting Joel word-for-word, making mention of Spirit and signs, he is trying to get to that whosoever that secures the salvation of men. He must quote it all to bid them call on the name the world abhors.
“The Lord is not slack…,” he will later add, stretching a day to a thousand years, that all might come to repentance. With the Spirit outpoured, the day of the Lord has been proclaimed to men. That pledge means the end of the age is near, a warning to sinful men.
But Paul will not write of times and seasons – there are no prior signs. Twice he says thief, to steal away treasure, twice he relates that to comfort. The day that begins as a thief in the night Peter ends with tremendous noise.
A Holy One has declared the start, a Wicked one the end. The day of Christ comes after his sin, with a beast in the seat of God. The sadder-but-wiser ones disagree. Antiochus was the Antichrist – there will not be another. A pig in the temple should suffice to be called an abomination. But no such man has yet been slain by the sword in the mouth of Christ.
Yet the others, longing for that thief, have erred on the Olivet Discourse. They see in it the church’s departure, when the focus instead is on ethnos. Nations, says Christ, will rise against nations, kingdoms war against kingdoms. The Jews will be hated, as now, of all nations, while the gospel of the kingdom is preached as a witness to all nations. The tribes will mourn when his sign appears and he saves his own from destruction.
This genea then must speak of a people, not a period of time. It is not the forty years required for children to grow to adulthood. Though the world would drive Israel into the sea, Abraham’s kids are still beloved because they proceed from the fathers. Messiah will come in the nick of time. But he did not appear in the fortieth year after 1948.
Though arguments on each side abound, the issue may boil down to this – if we do not succumb to symbolism and the subsequent free-for-all, then the locusts present a serious challenge the Preterists cannot resolve. The only men who will not be stung are sealed in their foreheads, not hearts.
We are excluded, as unchaste Gentiles. All others will know the tormenting pain that makes men beg for death. Believers are not appointed to wrath, and this is a taste of hell. Noah escaped before that other five-month taste of the deep. Lot went out after Abraham’s prayer that the Judge of the earth do right.
“But what of two comings?” some will protest, forgetting those two resurrections. The dead in Christ will rise before wrath, the Jews to join in his kingdom. And First Thessalonians omits some things, like the heavens split open, his radiant horse, and the great title Lord of Lords.
And Paul says God will bring them with him, not return them to earth. We are, after all, the bride of Christ and must proceed to his home. And the law excluded a man from war in his first year of marital bliss.
With no private interpretation allowed, Revelation is literal. Those seven years are Jacob’s trouble, once all seven seals are removed. With the fifth seal, believers see martyrdom; the sixth shakes the heavens and earth. It is likely that here the Lord will appear as the unsaved conclude the wrath of the Lamb is the reason the mountains are moved.
They may be shaken, but we are not, our apostle instructing with care. Those Thessalonians were not left behind. And the church will not just remain in the air, but proceed to mansions above. In the clouds, in the air, in the Father’s house – Israel will have its kingdom below, but we have the kingdom above.
No air there will keep believers alive, as our life proceeds from the Spirit.
Comment: Perhaps we will be caught up in the air to rebuke the prince of its power.
© 2013 Joseph B. Conti
Joseph B. Conti, 2011
Who is the Antichrist? No one can know, the experts say. Yet Revelation Revisited: The Destruction of Our Times examines the clues the experts have missed. In this fast-paced fusion of Old and New Testaments, author Joe Conti explains, in convincing fashion:
Ten original graphics are included in this gripping account of the apostasy of our times. 120 pages, paperback.