Where Do We Go From Here?
To the chagrin of many anxious prophecy watchers, the great stellar-planetary alignment depicted in Revelation 12:1–2 came and went on September 23, 2017 in an ostensibly uneventful manner (read "sans Rapture"). Many thousands of believers were so hepped up and so convinced the Rapture was a lock for September 23 or the several days immediately surrounding it that the disappointment felt throughout the Revelation 12 community was palpable, and was likely felt to some degree even by those who made it clear they were not expecting the Rapture to occur in that time frame, even though they took the REV12 sign seriously.
Ever since September 23, 2017 passed quietly into history, there has been what I can only describe as a mad scramble among many prophecy teachers and researchers to explain to everyone (a) why the Rapture didn't happen on or around the September 23, (b) why whatever they said about September 23 and the REV12 sign is still valid and correct, and (c) why we should still be diligently scouring the skies for more astronomical clues as to exactly what will happen next and exactly when it will happen.
Speaking of mad scrambles, I would be remiss if I didn't share with you a little scramble of my own:
Go back and read this, this, this, this, this, and this and find where I said anything other than the fact that I believed the 9/23/17 alignment pertaining to the sign of Revelation 12:1–2 was anything more than a sign revealed to us by God that we were officially entering the season of the Rapture. I'm just sayin'.
OK, I feel better now. Along the same lines, one thing that has been conspicuously absent is a horde of people coming out and simply saying they were wrong. Color me surprised. What I have seen instead is a lot of people merely retooling their predictions and pressing ahead, focusing attention on the next Jewish feast or date of interest. Rinse and repeat.
Luckily, unlike the bigtime gurus out there, I still enjoy the sublime advantage of being a relative nobody with no real reputation to protect. Well, except perhaps in the eyes of the 90 people who subscribe to my website, that is. (Yes, 90!! Last time I checked a few months ago it was in the 50s! If I'd known so many people were going to subscribe to my website, I woulda wrote in more better English.) That being the case, this writer is pleased as punch to freely delineate ways in which he was wrong, even though he may not have been guilty of pinning the Rapture to the September 23 time frame. Hold that thought—I'll get back to my own eschatological peccadilloes in a moment.
I have also seen some Revelation 12 researchers who have taken some heat from disappointed believers and as a result have felt the need to defend themselves. This is unfortunate (albeit not surprising), and it compels me to reiterate something I have stated in the past:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with responsible, biblically based speculation about the nature and/or timing of major end-time events such as the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Second Coming, etc. There is nothing in Scripture that prohibits healthy, speculative discourse concerning these things, and so there is no biblical justification for prohibiting or discouraging such discourse—much less mocking and disparaging it. Such discourse can benefit believers by increasing their understanding of exactly what the Bible teaches, and should be encouraged and generally viewed in a positive light.
On the other hand, I think Scripture makes it reasonably clear that we should refrain from overt date-setting, which is invariably based on slack exegesis (or slick eisegesis) and ultimately does little more than produce disappointment and disillusionment on the part of many believers.
The problem, of course, often lies in people's perceptions. Sometimes one man's responsible, biblically based speculation is another man's overt date-setting, and when the date of interest passes the tears flow, the fingers point, and the accusations fly.
Finally, let me make one thing crystal clear: No one who is involved in responsible, biblically based speculation about the great signs of Revelation 12 (or any other eschatological topic for that matter) needs to defend himself against critics or disappointed believers who perhaps took their speculation a bit too far and woke up crestfallen the morning after a date of interest passed. Most of the leading Revelation 12 researchers are merely doing what God called and gifted them to do, and they owe no man an apology for doing it.
In other words, if the heat is pushing you a little beyond your comfort zone, stay out of the kitchen. I have noticed, however, that some watchmen and Revelation 12 researchers have attempted to defend themselves, even though they have no need to do so. But some have done so by taking the position that when God's Word tells us to look for His coming, it means "do your best to try to figure out the exact date of the Rapture." They have the idea that the exact date (and even the hour) of the Rapture will be known in advance by those who are looking. Thus, they look, or continue digging and searching Scripture and plowing through reams of signs, intriguing coincidences, and patterns of historical events in their efforts to scope out the exact date of the Rapture in obedience to what they interpret as direct commands in Scripture to do just that.
So, the first thing I want to do in this article is to discuss a couple of things I think I got wrong about the REV12 sign, or perhaps ways in which my view of certain aspects of the sign were skewed to some degree. Yes, I still take the REV12 sign just as seriously as I ever have (if not more so), but I can clearly see where my view on a couple of points missed the mark and I want to take the opportunity to iron out a few wrinkles.
I also want to offer a different view of this idea that the Bible commands us to look for the exact day of the Rapture. I genuinely feel this notion may involve reading a wee bit too much into certain Scriptures, and I want to humbly offer a biblically based explanation as to why I don't quite see eye to eye with it, even though it is a view held by some good people who can run exegetical circles around me without breaking a sweat.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, I want to share my heart about where we go from here, now that The Big Event is kind of...you know, over.
In the words of one leading
Revelation 12 researcher,
"there is no Plan B." Well,
he was wrong. Don't look
now, but welcome to Plan B.
Now, before you say anything, I realize there are people out there who are telling everyone how the second sign of Revelation 12:3–4 will play out in some sort of grand astronomical panorama over the coming weeks and months, while others insist it was fulfilled by the solar eclipse on August 21.
I'm not taking any side bets, but my point is that legions of people had their sights set squarely on September 23. That was The Big Day. In the words of one leading Revelation 12 researcher, "there is no Plan B." Well, he was wrong. Don't look now, but welcome to Plan B.
Unfortunately, for some believers out there that "B" stands for "baffled." Now that September 23 has come and gone, the question on the minds of many ordinary believers who embrace the REV12 sign is this:
Where do we go from here?
The astronomical alignment pertaining to the great sign of Revelation 12:1–2 has occurred, and many were locked in to the idea that the Rapture would occur on or around that day.
News flash: It didn't.
So for any disappointed believers out there who find themselves searching for some post-9/23/17 answers, I have what I sincerely hope are a few simple words of encouragement and direction.
(Spoiler alert: It's not yet another Rapture date to hang your hat on.)
I was wrong
I really don't get why so many people seem to be allergic to these words. I love 'em—they're the most liberating words in the English language. They're like a master reset—they zero every meter and let you start fresh.
I have come to the conclusion that there are three fundamental aspects of the REV12 sign that I misread in some way, and I now feel like I have a better understanding of these points.
1. I regarded the stellar-planetary alignment of September 23, 2017 as the eschatological "fulfillment" of Revelation 12:1–2.
Like the majority of others, I assumed the alignment that occurred on 9/23/17 was the eschatological "fulfillment" of these two verses of Scripture. I think this was in error and I no longer view it that way, because I now believe that the real fulfillment of verses 1–5 is the entire Church Age itself, starting with the conception of the Church, followed by its two-thousand-year gestation period, and culminating with the Rapture. That's the real eschatological fulfillment of Revelation 12:1–5.
What?! You mean you're gonna turn tail and run?! Are you saying you no longer accept the REV12 sign?! You mean you've (gasp) joined the naysayers?! Say it ain't so!
Relax...that's not what I'm saying at all. Maybe it's semantics to some degree, but I think it was an error to view the 9/23/17 alignment as the sign's actual "fulfillment."
OK, so if the 9/23/17 alignment wasn't the fulfillment of Revelation 12:1–2, then what on earth was it?
I see it now as simply a confirmation of Revelation 12:1–2. I see the alignment of 9/23/17 as God's way of announcing to us in about the most attention-grabbing way imaginable that (a) John's vision was true and from Him, and (b) is about to come to pass. In other words, the 9/23/17 alignment confirms that Revelation 12 is actually about to be fulfilled in the eschatological sense, which means God is telling us we are staring down the barrels of the Rapture, the real fulfillment of verse 5.
Which is essentially what I have been saying all along, but I've just been saying it in the wrong way.
Fulfillment, confirmation, whatever. C'mon, Bible Dude...I think you're just splitting hairs. What's the big deal?
As I said, maybe it is just semantics, but hear me out. Here's the second way in which I think I was off base:
2. I assumed it was the extreme rarity of the alignment of 9/23/17 that made the sign so mega, as John says in the Greek.
This was an easy mistake to make, because the alignment of 9/23/17 really was stunning—it was a once-in-human-history astronomical event. I know that because I've done my homework—I've burned my fair share of midnight oil slaving over Stellarium, so I know.
But it finally hit me—that's not what made John describe the sign as mega. When John saw the vision he recorded in Revelation 12 and saw the semeion mega described in verses 1–2, he didn't see the constellation Virgo. Nor did he see the planet Jupiter going into retrograde motion within Virgo.
He saw a giant pregnant woman in the sky screaming in pain!
Now, he did see the moon at her feet, the sun clothing her, and her crown of 12 stars. I believe those elements are exactly what John said they are. So, I am satisfied that this first sign does have a literal astronomical component. I do not believe, however, that John just saw a bunch of heavenly bodies in the sky—he saw what he said he saw. He saw a woman.
In other words:
I am convinced that what John saw in his vision were figures moving and acting across the sky in a stunning panorama—the pregnant woman crying out in pain; the dragon lurking before her, preparing to devour her child; the child being born and then snatched up to heaven, etc. Now THOSE are mega signs! THAT'S spectacular! Oh, some rare alignment involving Virgo? Yawn.
Note, however, that the second sign of verses 3–4 (as well as the rest of the vision in chapter 12) does not mention the sun, moon, or stars, with the singular exception of verse 4 where the dragon sweeps a third of the stars down to earth. And even then, as Gary Ray at Unsealed.org pointed out recently, these may well not be literal stars, since this would obviously destroy the earth. So that reference to stars (v. 4) could be metaphorical.
The point I'm getting at is that it is entirely within the realm of possibility that the stellar-planetary alignment of 9/23/17 may be the only part of John's vision in Revelation 12 that has a literal astronomical confirmation associated with it that God has ordained to reveal to us, and that leads me to a third way in which I am starting to think I was in error:
3. I assumed all the other elements of the two great signs John described in verses 1–4 should have literal astronomical fulfillments.
I'm going to color this one purple because I'm still not 100 percent certain I was completely wrong on this—let's just say that I'm not quite as strongly convinced this is true as I was previously.
Because who knows? Some significant astronomical body, configuration, or event could still make its presence known at any time and leave us all scratching our collective heads. As Gary Ray recently remarked:
"Personally, identifying the dragon in the sky has never been a concern for me. My study of Revelation 12 and other supporting Scriptures has led me to believe we shouldn't expect to see anything, at least in the near-term. I'm not dogmatic about this and if a mysterious 'Planet X' soon shows up then, well, more power to those looking for Nibiru, but from my perspective it is unlikely that Revelation 12:3–4 will manifest as an actual alignment of planets and stars."
— Gary Ray, from an article entitled
"Where Is the Dragon?" [Source]
Here's the thing. If the stellar-planetary alignment of 9/23/17 was the eschatological "fulfillment" of verses 1–2, then we're almost obligated to find other astronomical "fulfillments" for the other elements of the two signs of verses 1–4 and the Rapture in verse 5: the Red Dragon with seven heads and crowns and ten horns sweeping a third of the stars down to earth, the child being born and caught up to heaven to escape the dragon, etc.
But here's part of the problem, and it's really starting to bother me: Whereas the confirmation of the first sign of verses 1–2 was absolutely clear and compelling, different people have different theories about the second sign of verses 3–4. Some think it's the mystery object NASA blacked out between the legs of Virgo (that's what I was going with). Some say it's the constellation Serpens, which features a man (Ophiuchus) wrestling with a large serpent below Virgo. Still others insist the second sign was fulfilled by the solar eclipse that swept across the United States on August 21 of this year, since in numerous myths and legends a solar eclipse is characterized by a serpent/dragon which "eats" the sun.
And there lies the problem—no one can agree. None of this is anywhere near as clear and compelling as the first sign:
Maybe it's this, maybe it's that—no no no, clearly it's this other thing.
And that's what is bugging me: This smacks of a lot of people simply grasping at straws (or fishing for red herrings). This suggests to me that this is not something God is revealing to us as was the case with the first sign on September 23. Somebody has to say it, and it might as well be me:
That's not gonna cut it, folks.
If any of these things were the literal astronomical "fulfillment" of the second sign of verses 3–4, then we should be ready for the literal astronomical "fulfillment" of verse 5, as the planet Jupiter leaves the area of Virgo and is snatched up to heaven to escape the clutches of whatever it was that fulfilled verses 3–4. Or it should have already happened.
But in case you haven't noticed, Jupiter is busily going its merry planetary way as planets tend to do, and I'm not aware of anything or anybody having been "snatched up to heaven." So, so much for the idea of using literal astronomical "fulfillments" of the two great signs of verses 1–4 to pinpoint the day of the Rapture. It clearly isn't that simple, and the primary reason I say that is because we're still sitting here.
Why stop there? Hey, if we're going to expect a literal astronomical "fulfillment" of every element of the two great signs in verses 1–4 and the Rapture in verse 5, why stop there? What configuration of stars do you suppose depicts the woman fleeing into the wilderness for 1,260 days (v. 6)? What astronomical event will fulfill the Red Dragon being cast down to earth (v. 9)? What rare alignment of planets will fulfill the part where the Red Dragon goes off to make war with the rest of the woman's seed (v. 17)? Where does it end? Where do we draw the line in terms of literal astronomical "fulfillments" of the elements of this vision?
Then again, maybe I'm jumping the gun. Some are describing how the second sign is going to play out over the coming weeks and months, so...be patient, it's not over yet!
If I am jumping the gun, well, so be it. Trust me, I'll be the first in line to shake the hand of the steely-eyed Stellarium stud who discovers the indisputable astronomical fulfillment of the second sign of Revelation 12:3–4 that the Revelation 12 community can rally around and embrace with confidence and enthusiasm the way it did the alignment of 9/23/17.
Anyway, keep me posted.
Now, please understand: I am not diminishing or taking anything away from dedicated people who feel called to actively search for more significant astronomical connections to Revelation 12 and other things. I'm just expressing my personal opinion here that the stunning alignment of 9/23/17 may possibly be the only literal astronomical confirmation of John's vision in chapter 12 that God is going to reveal to us. If He does reveal some of the other elements of the great signs He showed John, that's great.
It is possible that the stunning stellar-planetary alignment that confirmed the very first sign of Revelation 12:1–2 on September 23, 2017 may possibly have served as a confirmation for the whole sequence of events of chapter 12. God definitely got our attention with it, didn't He? Maybe it was His way of announcing that the sequence of events of Revelation 12 is about to begin and their final eschatological fulfillment is about to play out over the next few years, with the next event on the horizon being the completion of the Church Age by the birth/Rapture in verse 5.
Since we're on the subject...If by chance you happen to be someone who is sorely disappointed and perhaps a bit discouraged that the Rapture didn't happen on or around September 23, and are now confused or frustrated in your attempts to clearly pin down the second sign of verses 3–4, and are perhaps taking out your frustrations by attacking, criticizing or generally carping at some of the dedicated watchmen whose tireless, Spirit-led efforts paved the way to our understanding of the REV12 sign in the first place, let me ask you one simple question:
How many signs do you need?
Back in May of this year, I wrote an article in which I likened the alignment of the great sign of Revelation 12:1–2 to an exit sign telling us the Rapture was just up the road. So, put another way:
How many exit signs do you need?
Seriously. In real life, there is only one. Was the alignment of 9/23/17 insufficient to get the point across to you? Was God unclear in some way? Was what God revealed on that day not quite stunning enough to convince you of the prophetic reality of both great signs of verses 1–4, and that the depiction of the Rapture in verse 5 is about to be fulfilled? And if not, what will convince you? How many times and in how many ways does God need to confirm His Word to meet your standards, anyway?
Do you have ears to hear or not?
OK, but is it a command?
As I mentioned earlier, there are people today who seem to have settled in on the idea that Scripture actually commands believers to try and pinpoint the exact day and even the hour of the Rapture, and so they focus their efforts on searching for and interpreting clues in Scripture, signs in the heavens, intriguing patterns of historical events, and so forth in attempts to pin down the exact timing of the catching away of the body of Christ.
You're probably getting tired of hearing me say this, but I don't care: There is nothing wrong with responsible, biblically based speculation about end-time events that is done in a manner that seeks to honor God and to promote a deeper understanding of His Word, and is presented as such.
But to say that the Bible literally commands us to attempt to pinpoint the exact timing of the Rapture is an entirely different kettle of fish. I am of the opinion that this cannot be supported from God's Word; but before even looking at several of the passages of Scripture often used to attempt to support it, there are a couple of points that should be considered.
First off, we can logically conclude from this idea that every believer who is not actively engaged in attempting to figure out the exact day of the Rapture is disobeying the commands of Scripture. Now, that's no small thing. In fact, it could be argued that if you are consistently disobeying God's commands, then (a) you don't love Him (John 14:15), (b) you don't love other believers (1 John 5:2), (c) you haven't come to know Him (1 John 2:3), (d) you don't abide in Him and He doesn't abide in you (1 John 3:24), and (e) you won't receive anything you ask of Him (1 John 3:22).
Let that sink in for a moment, because this is serious business. In reality, I have a feeling those who espouse this idea don't take it as far as I just did—I'm reasonably sure they don't consciously mean it that way. I only said what I did in the above paragraph to make a point, and that point is simply that if the Bible actually commands us to try and figure out the exact day of the Rapture, it puts the lion's share of the body of Christ (this writer included)—legions of sincere believers who long for the Lord's return—under genuine condemnation. There is no other logical conclusion you can come to.
Plus, as I've discussed before, it is my scriptural opinion that Jesus told us quite clearly in Acts 1:6–7 that we wouldn't figure out the times and seasons of end-time events because they aren't for us to know, but are under the Father's authority. That is, they're not for us to figure out—they're for the Father to reveal. (See this for more details.)
Not only that, but consider this: Commands in the Bible are normally given as, well, commands. For example:
• Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37).
• Love your enemies (Matt. 5:44).
• Seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
• Let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16).
• Watch (wait vigilantly and expectantly) for the Lord's return (Mark 13:37).
And so on. They are clear, direct, and straightforward, as commands should be. You don't have to piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle—a strained interpretation of a word here, a leap of logic there, and voilà: we've got ourselves a command. In my humble opinion, this alleged command to try to figure out the day of the Rapture is more along the lines of the latter.
OK, now to the Word. There are a handful of passages of Scripture that are typically used to support this idea, and I want to take a brief look at five of them and discuss why I do not believe they literally command us to try and figure out the exact day of the Rapture.
13Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
(Titus 2:13 / emphasis added)
looking for — a form of prosdechomai (to await actively and expectantly; to be prepared to warmly and personally receive the individual or group whose arrival is eagerly anticipated, or to anticipate an approaching event.)
Note that there's nothing here to suggest this word means to attempt to figure out the exact (yet unknown) day that person or group is due to arrive or that event is set to occur. Thus, it's tough to justify interpreting it in such a manner. The word prosdechomai is used 14 times in the New Testament, and not once does it convey such a meaning.
3Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If therefore you won't watch, I will come as a thief, and you won't know what hour I will come upon you.
(Revelation 3:3 / emphasis added)
watch — a form of gregoreo (to watch; to be awake, alert, vigilant)
know — a form of ginosko (to come to know, recognize, perceive)
Some people want to take this to mean that those who are not watching will not know the exact day and hour of the Lord's return; therefore, it follows logically that those who are watching will know the exact day and hour. But that's not what the verse says.
I am satisfied that this verse is merely telling us that those who are asleep and not watching will be overtaken and caught completely off guard, with the clear implication that those who are watching will not be caught off guard. Why? Because they are awake, alert, and vigilant. They are watching.
One point to make here concerns the use of the word "hour." Why did Jesus say "hour"? Did He mean to suggest something about knowing the exact hour of His return? I don't believe so. I believe He used the word "hour" simply because it was suitable for the analogy He was creating—that of a thief breaking into someone's house. For example:
I stayed up all night last night, because I wasn't sure what year the thief might try to break in.
See what I mean? Only the word "hour" makes good sense in this word picture, but the meaning is quite clear. All this verse is telling us is that those who are not watching will be caught off guard and won't be aware of the general time frame of His return, while those who are awake, alert, and vigilant will be aware, and so won't be caught off guard.
Think about it: If we're supposed to figure out the exact day and hour of the Rapture, then why the constant emphasis on being alert and vigilant?
4But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. 5You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don't belong to the night, nor to darkness, 6so then let's not sleep, as the rest do, but let's watch and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night.
(1 Thessalonians 5:4–7 / emphasis added)
overtake — a form of katalambano (to lay hold of, seize, overtake, capture)
sleep — a form of katheudo (to sleep; metaphorically, to yield to sloth and sin, and be indifferent to one's salvation)
watch — a form of gregoreo (to watch; to be awake, alert, vigilant)
This verse is similar to the preceding one. All this passage is telling us is that for those in darkness (who are not watching), the Lord's coming will overtake them as a thief in the night, and they will similarly be caught completely off guard. Children of the light (who are watching) will not be. Same deal. There's nothing here about knowing the exact day of His return.
It's worth noting that immediately following the above verse about watching, the apostle Paul gives us some detailed guidelines for Christian living—guidelines that, given the context, are especially applicable to the last days:
8But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9For God didn't appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.
12But we beg you, brothers, to know those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, 13and to respect and honor them in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. 15See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all. 16Rejoice always. 17Pray without ceasing. 18In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you. 19Don't quench the Spirit. 20Don't despise prophesies. 21Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.
(1 Thessalonians 5:8–22)
Following his admonition to watch for the Lord's return in verse 6, Paul rattles off no fewer than 20 specific instructions for believers to be mindful of. Paul describes in some detail here how we should live, and what attitudes and activities should characterize the lives of believers:
1. Be sober.
2. Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of salvation.
3. Exhort one another.
4. Build each other up.
5. Respect and honor those who work to shepherd you.
6. Be at peace among yourselves.
7. Admonish the disorderly.
8. Encourage the fainthearted.
9. Support the weak.
10. Be patient to all.
11. Do not return evil for evil.
12. Always seek the good for one another and for all.
13. Rejoice always.
14. Pray without ceasing.
15. Give thanks for everything and in every situation.
16. Don't quench the Spirit.
17. Don't scoff at prophecies, or treat them with contempt.
18. Test all things.
19. Hold firmly to that which is good.
20. Abstain from every form of evil.
Q. What's an instruction that seems to be missing from the above list?
A. Try to pin down the exact day the Lord is coming.
Of course, this proves nothing—but this list does cover a lot of ground. One might think that if Jesus actually commanded us to make an effort to figure out the day of the Rapture, Paul just might have mentioned it. But he didn't.
24Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24–25 / emphasis added)
approaching — a form of eggizo (to draw or come near, approach)
This is most likely a reference to the day of the Lord or the Tribulation, but it could conceivably be applied to the Rapture since it is part and parcel of it.
But is this verse really telling us we should somehow be able to know the exact date of the Rapture in advance and see that exact day coming? Well...
Q1. Do I see the day of the Rapture approaching?
A. Yes, of course I do. How could I not?
Q2. Do I see the exact day of the Rapture?
A. No, of course I don't. How could I?
I'm sorry, did I miss anything? It seems clear to me that the emphasis in "as you see the Day approaching" is on the approaching, not the day.
For example, if you were a foreigner visiting the United States and had no idea that Christmas fell on the 25th of December, could you not see the day approaching for about six weeks prior? Of course you could. You wouldn't need to know the exact day to see it getting closer and closer—there would be the preparations, the decorations, the music, the parties, the activities, etc. all around you. You'd see people everywhere getting geared up for it, frantically shopping for last minute presents and so on, wouldn't you? You would have no need to know it fell on December 25 to see it approaching.
How is the Rapture substantially different?
If you don't see the day of the Rapture approaching, you are fast asleep, my friend, and paying no attention whatsoever to the Lord's command to watch. You are utterly ignorant of what God's Word says about end-time prophecy and its ongoing fulfillment in these last days. Shame on you.
If you are obeying the Bible's commands to watch and discern the times and you are alert to the fulfillment of end-time prophecy, you should be bursting with anticipation right about now. No believer has any excuse whatsoever to not see the Rapture coming, and coming sooner than most imagine.
But no one knows the exact day, do they?
I rest my case.
48But if that evil servant should say in his heart, "My lord is delaying his coming," 49and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with the drunkards, 50the lord of that servant will come in a day when he doesn't expect it, and in an hour when he doesn't know it, 51and will cut him in pieces, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. There is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.
(Matthew 24:48–51 / emphasis added)
expect — a form of prosdokao (to expect, await, anticipate)
know — a form of ginosko (to come to know, recognize, perceive)
Although this verse refers specifically to the Second Coming, the basic underlying principle is the same as Revelation 3:3 and 1 Thessalonians 5:4–7, and that is those who are not watching will be caught off guard, with the implication that those who are watching won't. Same deal.
The primary difference is that the analogy here pertains to a servant waiting for the Master to return from a journey, rather than someone waiting for a thief. Obviously the words "day" and "hour" are appropriate for the given word picture, and as before, in my opinion they should be interpreted as representing the general time frame of the Master's return.
The bottom line is that I just don't see any strong scriptural support for the notion that we are literally commanded to try and figure out the exact day or hour of the Rapture. Not only that, but I see this idea as bringing many sincere believers in the body of Christ under unjustified condemnation.
Finally, please know that I'm not criticizing or coming against anyone who holds to this idea—I'm just respectfully laying out my personal view of it.
Where do we go from here?
I know there are many disappointed people out there, and I'm pleased to report that the vast majority haven't fallen away or lost their faith or anything like that. But I realize that a lot of sincere believers really had their hopes pinned to September 23 and the days surrounding it, and then BOOM! It didn't happen, and I see many who are searching for answers—searching for something to grab hold of.
And in many cases, looking for yet another date to pin their hopes to.
The first thing I would say to such people is this: Consider gently easing away from the need for a specific date to look forward to. I know it's human nature to look forward to an exact date—in some ways we almost can't help it. Although biblically based speculation over dates is not wrong per se, when we allow ourselves to get overly hyped up over such a date it can easily become a distraction. When we become fixated on a date, it can negatively impact other aspects of our walk with the Lord. It's clear:
Continuing to fixate on one date after another isn't the answer.
I'm not saying this to give everyone a pat on the back, but it's true that as believers who are more tuned in to what God is revealing to us in these last days, we have a burden of responsibility. This is a biblical principle many of us need to warm up to, and yours truly is no exception.
With revelation comes responsibility.
The ultimate example of this is the nation of Israel. God sent them their promised Messiah, and everywhere He went for three-and-a-half years He made lepers clean, the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead live. The power of the Holy Spirit was clearly revealed to them in Christ, who fulfilled every prophecy concerning the Messiah's first appearance. Israel received revelation from God that was unparalleled in human history.
And with that revelation came the responsibility to believe, and honor and embrace their Messiah as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
But that's not what happened, is it?
Instead, they were so consumed with their own righteousness based on obedience to the Law of Moses that they hardened their hearts and rejected their Messiah, and conspired to have Him executed like a common criminal. As a result, Israel has experienced a partial hardening in regard to their true Messiah, and this will continue until they finally realize they have foolishly received an impostor in His place and as a nation seek God with all their hearts during the Tribulation.
The point is that God expects us to properly receive and respond to His revelation, and I for one believe this applies to the confirmation of the great sign of Revelation 12:1–2 on September 23, 2017. I believe the incredible astronomical alignment of 9/23/17 was something revealed by God as a confirmation of His Word, and as such we have a responsibility to receive and respond to it appropriately...which begs the question:
How do we properly respond to this revelation?
How do you think? By fixating on one date after another to the point of distraction? By crying in frustration when the date du jour passes like a six-year-old who got bumped in a game of Musical Chairs? By attacking and coming against Spirit-led watchmen whose biblically based speculation has been recklessly elevated to quasi-divine status by those with an insatiable need for a date to hang their hats on? By becoming so preoccupied with the Rapture and its date that we begin to have a fairly casual attitude toward the very thing that made us qualified to be included in it in the first place?
And I'm not just talking to others here...I'm talking to man in the mirror.
It breaks my heart when I think of the times in the last few years when I got so caught up in speculation over prophetic events that I gave little thought to spending time alone with the Lord in prayer.
It crushes me when I think of how often my study of God's Word was so completely focused on technicalities concerning end-time prophecy that I gave little thought to the fact that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit and a lamp unto my feet.
And I weep when I think of the times that I was so absorbed in speculation about the Rapture and its timing that I temporarily lost sight of the precious blood that Christ shed for me on the cross that made it possible for this worthless schmuck to be part of it.
Father forgive me.
So, back to the original question:
Where do we go from here?
Unless I miss my guess, the Holy Spirit has already given you the answer:
We go to the Lord.
We go to the Rock. We go back to the basics. We go straight to the place none of us should have ever strayed from to begin with.
We go to the Lord in prayer. We spend time in His presence. We need to stay prayed up in these last of the last days, more so now than at any other time in the history of the Church. After all, it's no. 14 on Paul's list:
17Pray without ceasing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)
And it's even more important now because the attacks of the enemy are increasing in frequency and intensity.
Don't tell me you haven't noticed.
We go to the Lord in His Word. And I don't mean just the prophecy-related parts—I mean all of it. I know that some people, me included, can get so wrapped up in the prophetic aspects of Scripture that we can temporarily lose sight of the drop-dead obvious stuff—like the fact that...
12...the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Every. Single. Word. Dine on it daily.
We go to the Lord in praise. One of the best things we can do is to refresh our understanding of what it means to praise the Lord. If our spiritual lives were likened to an automobile, praise would be 10W-40. There is no better, quicker way to get in spiritual gear than to simply go to the Lord in praise and with thanksgiving.
I've always loved the story of Paul and Silas in prison—these guys redefined the word "bold" and praise played a key role:
25And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them. 26And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
(Acts 16:25–26 AKJV / emphasis added)
I'd say it's time to loose a few bands.
We go to the world with the gospel. Finally, we go to the lost with the message of the gospel. We take the good news of the salvation that Christ made freely available to a lost and dying world while there is still time.
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear.
(1 Peter 3:15)
That's where we go from here, and that's how we as the Bride should respond to God's revelation that the season of the Rapture is upon us.
Oh, and one other little thing you might want to stick in your back pocket:
Update your résumé: Every single day between now and the Rapture, we have an opportunity to polish our résumés for the kingdom. Don't forget that we are coming back with Christ at the Second Coming, and for a purpose: We are going to rule and reign with Him for a thousand years, and that means we will have jobs and responsibilities. By keeping busy with things we are commanded to do in Scripture, we are not merely storing up treasure in heaven—we are effectively updating our résumés for the Millennial Kingdom, and it will impact our future roles in it.
The bottom line is that we have more important things to concern ourselves with than the Rapture itself or its timing. Which reminds me...
Recently the Lord brought one specific verse to my attention. You know how it is—sometimes it's like BAM. And then BAM, there it is again. And BAM, there it is again, and you're like OK Lord, I got it.
This is the verse:
28Now, little children, remain in him, that when he appears, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
(1 John 2:28 / emphasis added)
Note that this can only refer to the Rapture, since at the Second Coming we are coming back with Him as perfected saints. What began to sink in about this verse, however, is the fact that apparently there will be believers who will actually be ashamed before Him when we are caught up to be with Him. (Oh, and have fun with this one, all you partial-Rapture aficionados.)
Imagine that—after all our big talk about the Rapture and when it will occur and all these signs in the heavens and so forth and so on...there will be those who are ashamed at His coming. Why? Easy.
For at least a few people, it will be because they have gotten so distracted by speculation about the Rapture and its timing that to varying degrees they have carelessly neglected certain aspects of their walk with the Lord.
I have no intention of allowing that to happen to me—I want to be ready to meet the Lord with open arms and a joyful heart (and with an updated résumé).
I'm sure you feel the same.
So, if you ever get to feeling a bit distracted, disappointed, or discouraged by ongoing speculation about the Rapture and its timing or any other end-time prophecy stuff, just remember:
You know where to go.
Greg Lauer / October 2017
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1. Deriv. of "Sunset Over Grass Field" © AOosthuizen at Can Stock Photo
2. "Signpost" © Eyematrix at Fotolia.com
3. "What John Saw"—derivative work based on 3a–3b:
3a. "The Revelation 12 Sign"—derivative work based on screenshot from Stellarium
3b. "The Woman Clothed with the Sun" by Benjamin West [PD]
4. "COMMAND with Red Text" © Chris Titze Imaging at Fotolia.com
5. "Burglar at the Window" © Paolese at Fotolia.com
6. "Christmas Tree and Presents" © Konstiantyn at Fotolia.com
7. "Profile of a Sad Man" © Antonioguillem at Fotolia.com
(All PD works are via Wikimedia Commons.)
All Scripture is taken from the World English Bible, unless annotated as KJV (King James Version) or AKJV (American King James Version).