The Rapture: How Soon Is Soon? - By Ron Ferguson -
One of the readers asked me if we could tell how far away the Lord's coming for His Christians might be. It is a very valid question, and I thought about "How soon is soon"? That became the title of this article.
In John 14:4 Jesus promised He would go away and then come again. There is considerable evidence the early disciples expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes. Near the end they knew that was not going to happen, especially Paul. John closes Revelation with, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
In the second century, the church was being racked by persecution. The disciples were hanging in there, and as time went on, there was a door shut on the emphasis of the imminent return of the Lord. In the 4th century the Nicene Creed just lumped any return into one in this statement - "He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead."
The Apostles' Creed ends in the same way - "He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead."
Both these creeds had moved away from the Rapture; and things remained that way, with a few exceptions, until about the 1820s when the Holy Spirit revived the hope of the Lord's coming for His Church. Students of Bible prophecy were gifted by God to understand eschatology (doctrine of the last things), and so we have now a clear understanding of future events. From the early 1800s there was an expectation of the Rapture, and it was generally believed it could be any time. It is a constant expectation of the Church that the Lord will come to take His Bride away.
Charles Wesley wrote a beautiful hymn called "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending" in which he seems to deal with both future comings of the Lord. Stanza 1 is His Second Coming, and stanza 4 suggests the Rapture. I quote both stanzas.
"Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.
Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!"
Having said that, where do we stand in 2020? Are there any obstacles to delay the Lord's coming? How soon is soon? I will answer it this way:
1. There are no prophecies relating to the Rapture-ones that have to be fulfilled first. There are hundreds of prophecies relating to the Second Coming. The closest we can get to, with some guidelines, are the "last day" prophecies of the Church age in 2 Tim 3:1-5, and those features we see in our world today. Some people say, "But we have always had those things." The point is that it is the intensity we have to look at. Are these things getting worse? The answer most assuredly is that they are growing in intensity. The "difficult/perilous times" have worsened so much over the last few years. I am amazed with what has changed in the world just in 2020.
I don't know if you saw my article, "The Signs of the Times: Part 1," posted previously where I touched on these things, but I will expand on a couple. Christians who lived 100 years ago likewise believed the Lord could come in their lifetime, but there was one essential element missing. Consider this verse - Matt 24:32 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near."
The fig tree in scripture is always symbolic of Israel, a type of Israel, and this is an important verse. Israel, as the fig tree, has remained leafless for about 1,900 years; but at last it began to sprout, and in 1947/48 became a nation. It has leaves but no fruit. The fruit will not appear until Israel is saved in the Tribulation when this passage will apply (this time another symbol is used for Israel, that of the olive tree):
Rom 11:24 "For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?" Rom 11:25-26 "Brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and thus all Israel will be saved just as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion. He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.'"
Paul speaks of this transition from Jew to Gentile and then back to Jew. The Jews were the olive tree, but its branches were cut off and the Gentiles grafted in. We are right near the end of that when the Gentile branches will be removed in the Rapture and the olive tree shoots out everywhere with saved Jews in the Tribulation.
What I am saying is that the Jewish nation firstly has to be formed and in their land ready for God straight after the Rapture. They have been there for 72 years and in place. That is a strong indication that the Rapture must be very close. Israel is God's time clock, and currently we are in the times of the Gentiles; but the clock, prophetically speaking, has only a few seconds to go before the alarm sounds, the Church goes, and God again turns to Israel for its salvation.
Lawlessness. What we have been seeing all over the world is now uniform whereas it was once spasmodic. It is not just confined to one nation. The World Leader/Antichrist is called "The Man of Lawlessness," so increasing lawlessness in the world will be the garden he grows in when he comes. That "garden" is here now, and there is so much hostility towards Jew and Christian from people. Another indication the Rapture must be nearing.
The beast/Man of Sin. He is the one who comes with the opening of the first seal in Rev 6:1. The Church is in heaven in Rev 4 and 5; the Tribulation starts in chapter 6 and goes right through until chapter 19. This one (World Leader/Antichrist) comes on a white horse but there is no war, just a bloodless conquest and acceptance by the people of the world.
I believe the corona virus will weaken the world so much financially and in other ways that it helps prepare the scene for the Antichrist's arrival. He is seen as the savior of the world and will fix its problems. The current world is sinking in financial problems and debts so huge that no nation will be able to pay them. The world is looking for a person right now to fix all the problems. They will accept the beast with open arms when he appears. In all likelihood he is alive today. Also, when the rapture happens, it will cause a lot of problems like chaos on the roads and in business when people just disappear.
The Drug Culture. There is a very significant verse in Revelation - Rev 9:21 "And they did not repent of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their immorality, nor of their thefts." This summary closes chapter 9, where just before we read - Rev 9:18 "A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths." This is the terrible time of God's wrath on the earth when mankind is powerless to do anything about stopping God's wrath. What man needs to do is repent, but note what verse 21 said. They refuse to repent. Do you see the word "sorceries" there? Sadly, all Bible versions have the wrong translation, or maybe they are partly correct. The Greek word translated "sorceries" is φαρμακεία = pharmakeia. It means the use of medicine, drugs or spells and is the word from which Pharmacy comes.
I do not know why translators translate as "sorceries" rather than "drugs." Of course, in 1611 when the KJV was translated, they had no idea of the pandemic of drugs as we have in the modern world, and they associated drugs (correctly) with the practice of sorcery and casting of spells. Sorcery or witchcraft often uses drugs as part of the enchantment and altered states of mind; so, in a way, it is understandable why the KJV would consider sorcery as the translation.
What we can deduce from this is that the time of the Tribulation will have a drug-functioning culture in its satanic worship of the Beast and False Prophet. Satanism is the religion of the Tribulation. In the world today we have an out-of-control drug epidemic and a great rise in Satanism, paganism, eastern religions and new-age beliefs. You see how close this is to what is coming. The seeds of it are here today, and they have germinated. I suppose one might ask, "How long can this deterioration continue before the Lord intervenes?" But when the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit goes at the Rapture, the depravity of man will explode, and drugs and Satanism will increase exponentially.
Communication. 100 years ago, how quickly could you communicate with someone overseas? Well, you could have used Morse Code invented in the 1830-1840s and the subsequent development from that with the telegraph, but only from one sender to a receiver, not to the public universally, or to the whole world. One could use a computer to send things after about 1975, but it was impossible to send messages and pictures to people anywhere on earth before the universal usage of the cell/mobile phone aided by many satellites. In fact, before 2010 only some of the world had this coverage; but today with saturation from satellites, the whole world can send and receive messages one to another.
Why is this important? Well, it has to be because of this passage - Rev 11:3 "I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." Rev 11:7-11 "When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
"Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them."
This is the record of the two witnesses who will come, I believe, exactly halfway through the Tribulation and witness in Jerusalem for three and a half years. (Some believe they're here for the first 3 1/2 years; some believe in the middle, overlapping both the beginning and the end.) Enoch and Elijah are those two witnesses. It cannot be Moses because he has died, and the Bible says very clearly in Hebrews 9:27 "Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment."
When these two prophets are killed by the World Leader/Antichrist, THE WHOLE WORLD WILL SEE IT IN REAL TIME. In verse 8, "The peoples and tribes and tongues and nations" means all nations and languages (dialects and tribes) - in short, everyone - and this can only be possible because of the universal cell/mobile phone coverage. I read not too long ago in a survey that 68% of people sleep with their phones in the bed or under their pillow. Social media seems to control people's lives like an addiction. Things go viral all the time.
We are right at the stage now where an event in the city square in Jerusalem in a coming day can be viewed universally and the entire world will rejoice because God's prophets Enoch and Elijah have been killed. What horrible days! For centuries, skeptics mocked this Revelation passage, scorning the fact that no one could see anything outside of the immediate vicinity. They dismissed the Bible as a fairytale.
In my article, "The Signs of the Time: Part 2," some extra points on the nearness of the Lord's coming were explored. 50 years ago when I was speaking on these prophetic subjects, I remember saying, "There is not one thing that has to be put in place before the Lord can come for us. Everything is ready." Now, in hindsight, I see that was not the case. Just to cite two items from the material above - the drug culture and phones! I think now I can say there is nothing whatever now. It is just a matter of how quickly conditions might continue to decline and how bad and depraved it might become before we hear, "Come up here!" and the Lord takes us home.
The virus has damaged the world. Financial problems are now a concern. Violence is increasing. The world seems incapable of repairing itself. False prophets and liberalism and humanistic theology are very widespread, along with "easy believe-ism." We must be right at the end of the Church age. The Rapture is most certainly close, but how close? How soon is soon? We are not to worry about that. We keep our eyes on the Lord and patiently wait.