|Live Services||Sex and Marriage, Part 3|
|Editorial||An Economy of Irony|
|Q&A||Does 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 teach a "secret rapture"?|
|The Work||Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock|
Sex and Marriage, Part 3
On November 24, 2007, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Sex and Marriage, Part 3.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
An Economy of Irony
by Eric Rank
If I told you that the American economy is currently doing very well, would you believe me? If you pay even a little attention to the news, you would certainly not.
The news these days is bleak. The mortgage industry collapses further each day, dragging down whomever it can. The dollar consistently sets records as its value decreases in the world market. The national debt is larger than it has ever been. Add to that the demands on the country to buy increasingly expensive oil and other resources, obligations to solve problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the picture you might see is one of a country on the brink of collapse. All the evidence in the news today portends a decline in the American economy, and a rapid one at that. The news certainly does not forecast a flourishing economy.
You might offer me this clear evidence as a counter-argument to my claim of America’s “successful economy.” And I would agree with you. However, I would point out to you that for every licensed driver, there’s a car on the road. With all those cars on the road, even though gas prices are higher than ever, gas consumption is continuing to grow. I’d also bring to your attention that Americans are living in increasingly larger homes, while housing fewer people. Another thing to consider is the $160 billion a year (and rapidly growing — $160 billion is a 2005 statistic) market for self storage. Such a gigantic market indicates that Americans have such an insatiable appetite for consuming goods that they can’t even store the stuff they buy in their newer, larger homes. It’s not just cheap stuff Americans are buying, either. Luxury brands report consistent upward sales trends and perform very well. By an empirical analysis, Americans live in a palatial state of being, continually lifting their standard of living. Even though the news about the economy is dismal, according to the way they spend, Americans don’t seem to care.
Putting the news together with America’s buying habits describes a dangerous set of circumstances. We know about this danger because the Bible tells us what must come to fruition. As a result of national disobedience, God communicates a warning in Deuteronomy 28:47-48:
“Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.”
As the standards of living continue to escalate, while the economic foundation to support it weakens, America is setting itself up for a great fall. How great that fall from a life of luxury to the need of everything will be!
When considering the times and circumstances to come, Paul gives those who live in Christ some reassurance in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 when he writes, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 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. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”
Let us be encouraged by God’s instructions and warnings so that we too are not left in the dark when that fateful and inevitable fall occurs.
This Week in the News
More Military Might for Europe?
The EUObserver wrote on November 16:
“UK foreign secretary David Miliband called for a strengthening of the EU’s military capacities during his first major speech on EU policy on Thursday (15 November) – an idea that has also been recently raised by France. ‘It’s frankly embarrassing that when European nations – with almost two million men and women under arms – are only able, at a stretch, to deploy around 100,000 at any one time’, Mr Miliband said… ‘European countries have around 1,200 transport helicopters, yet only 35 are deployed in Afghanistan. And EU member states haven’t provided any helicopters in Darfur despite the desperate need there’, he went on.
“French president Nicolas Sarkozy has also called for more efforts to build an independent European defence capability as well as to modernise NATO, while French defence minister Herve Morin told German newspaper FAZ earlier this week that Paris would put defence high on its EU presidency agenda during the second half of 2008.”
Europe, Under Germany, Against Iran…?
Reuters reported on November 16:
“Germany would consider the possibility of separate EU measures against Iran if the U.N. Security Council fails to agree on a new sanctions resolution, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.
“Reacting to the latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the United States said on Thursday it would work with its allies for a third round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran for refusing to suspend nuclear enrichment.
“But Russia and China, permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council, are opposed to more sanctions. As a result, France has been pushing for the European Union to impose its own separate U.S.-style sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“A German Foreign Ministry spokesman was asked at a regular news conference what Germany, which diplomats have been saying opposed the idea of separate EU measures, would do if the Security Council failed to approve tougher sanctions. ‘The foreign minister has made clear that if this is the case we would take up this issue in Europe and consider together what steps could be taken by Europe,’ spokesman Martin Jaeger said.”
… But Germany’s Position “Difficult, Sketchy and Ineffective”…
Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 20:
“In an effort to forestall an American military strike against Iran, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for tougher economic sanctions against the mullah-controlled regime in Tehran. But critics say Merkel’s plans are sketchy and difficult to implement, while experts disagree over their effectiveness…
“During a visit to US President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas two weekends ago, Merkel promised her host that her government would apply stronger economic pressure on the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Merkel hopes that harsh economic sanctions will force the country’s ruling mullahs to finally abandon their controversial nuclear program… Only a few days later, during a routine consultation between senior officials in the German and French governments, Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy explored ways to put together a European alliance of countries willing to participate in the boycott. The Europeans’ main goal is to prevent a US military strike, which they believe could have more catastrophic consequences than an Iranian nuclear program… However, many in Berlin doubt tougher sanctions would be enough to force Tehran to come around on the nuclear issue. They are merely the price of keeping the Americans peaceful.
“The Catch-22 in Merkel’s pledge is that the plans she proposes are difficult to implement, and the German government has little latitude. Government experts warn against further reducing or even eliminating Hermes cover — export credit guarantees that protect German companies from non-payment by foreign debtors — for business transactions with Iran, as the Americans are demanding. Although Berlin reduced the government export credit guarantees from €900 million last year to the current level of €500 million, canceling the Hermes guarantees altogether would be risky.
“In Berlin, senior government officials fear that if the guarantees were eliminated, Tehran would no longer have any reason to repay what it already owes. At issue are receivables totaling roughly €5.5 billion, and not collecting on these debts would drive many German companies into bankruptcy. The government would have to jump in to prevent this from happening, which would impose an unacceptable burden on its budget.
“Closing the Iranian banks’ German offices isn’t as easy as the Americans imagine, either. Before this could happen, the European Union would require a United Nations resolution stating that the banks are funding the nuclear weapons program Iran is believed to be developing. EU member states would only be permitted to take action against the relevant Iranian companies if the UN adopts the necessary resolution. Although the resolution is pending before the UN Security Council, it hasn’t been adopted yet…
“US government pressure on German corporations and banks is also causing legal problems for the companies in question. By agreeing to participate in a boycott against a foreign country, German businesses would be in violation of foreign trade legislation enacted in 1993. The new laws were introduced because a number of Arab nations had demanded that their trading partners refrain from doing business with Israel. Many companies, fearful of losing their Arab business, caved in and signed the statements their Arab trading partners were demanding. To prevent this from happening in the future, German lawmakers enacted the 1993 legislation, which imposes fines of up to €500,000 on offenders…”
French President Keeps Low Profile
Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 20:
“It’s Black Tuesday for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Five million French civil servants have gone out on strike, joining millions of others already on the streets protesting planned reforms.
“French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing his stiffest political test on Tuesday as five million public servants stage a one-day strike. They are joining transport workers who are staying off the job for the seventh straight day. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Monday that the transport strike was costing the economy between €300 million and €350 million ($440 million and $513 million) a day.
“The strikes are causing disruptions to air traffic, postal delivery and even weather forecasts and French people are being forced to forgo their newspapers as printers and distribution employees stay away from work…
“While the majority of French supported Sarkozy’s pledge to modernize France in the presidential elections in May many are beginning to feel disappointed with the failure to improve their daily lives six months on… The president has been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile over the past week, in an attempt to avoid aggravating the situation…”
Global Warming–Man-Made or Not?
AFP reported on November 16:
“UN experts agreed Friday on a draft report that warns global warming may have far-reaching and irreversible consequences… But sometimes sharp disagreement emerged during the five days of negotiations in Valencia to hammer out the summary, even though the main findings remained untouched. US delegates in particular said references to ‘irreversible’ climate change and impacts were imprecise. They argued, for example, that the melting of glaciers or ice sheets — which could raise ocean levels by several meters (a dozen feet) — was not ‘irreversible’ as ice could eventually reform… There is now broad agreement on the amplifying scale of the problem, but countries remain sharply divided on how to tackle it, fearing economic costs and loss of competitive advantage.”
In a related article, the Associated Press wrote on November 16:
“The document says recent research has heightened concern that the poor and the elderly will suffer most from climate change; that hunger and disease will be more common; that droughts, floods and heat waves will afflict the world’s poorest regions; and that more animal and plant species will vanish… The report is important because it is adopted by consensus, meaning countries accept the underlying science and cannot disavow its conclusions. While it does not commit governments to a specific course of action, it provides a common scientific baseline for the political talks. “U.N. experts say a new global plan must be in place by 2009 to ensure a smooth transition after the expiration of the Kyoto terms, which require 36 industrial countries to radically reduce their carbon emissions by 2012…
“While the European Union has taken the lead in enforcing the carbon emission targets outlined in Kyoto, the United States opted out of the 1997 accord. President Bush described it as flawed because major developing countries such as India and China, which are large carbon emitters, were excluded from any obligations. He also favors a voluntary agreement.
“Sharon Hays, a White House science official and head of the U.S. delegation, said the certainty of climate change was clearer now than when Bush rejected Kyoto. ‘What’s changed since 2001 is the scientific certainty that this is happening,’ she said in a conference call to reporters late Friday. ‘Back in 2001 the IPCC report said it is likely that humans were having an impact on the climate,’ but confidence in human responsibility had increased since then.”
America Is Giving Mixed Signals on Global Warming
Although the U.N’s. draft report on man-made global warming was unanimous, this may not mean that the United States really agrees with its conclusions. As AFP reported on November 17:
“The United States believes there is no clear scientific definition of the dangers of climate change although it recognizes urgent action is needed, a US conference delegation said. ‘The scientific definition of that is lacking, and so we are operating within the construct of, again, strong agreement among world leaders that urgent action is warranted,’ said Jim Connaughton, chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality…
“‘The scientific community has offered a wide range of perspectives in these documents,’ Connaughton said… Head US delegate in Valencia, Sharon Hays, cited recent American studies… made on the basis of the last IPCC report, in which US researchers stated ‘very clearly’ that ‘value judgments’ still have to be made in determining what the dangers of climate change really are… ‘That is a political judgment, as it’s been made,’ added US negotiator on climate issues Harlan Watson. ‘It’s their interpretation.’… The United States continues to oppose establishing strict legal limits on greenhouse gas emissions.”
Changes In Poland
Will Poland’s new government change the country’s relationship with Europe and the United States?
Der Spiegel wrote on November 20:
“The Kaczynski twins went a long way toward destroying Poland’s relations with Europe. Now that Donald Tusk has become prime minister, the repairs have begun… Foreign Minister Sikorski… wants the US to give the Poles something in return for their commitment to the Americans. When he was defense minister, Sikorski asked Washington for $1 billion in military aid. He also fears that missiles stationed in Poland could turn the country into a target for attacks by rogue states.
“Besides, the new government promised its fellow Poles that it would withdraw the remaining 900 Polish soldiers from Iraq. Surveys have repeatedly shown that the majority of Poles are highly critical of their soldiers’ Iraq mission.
“This skepticism is likely to have grown in recent days, after a military prosecutor in Poznan filed charges against seven Polish soldiers alleged to have opened fire on unarmed civilians during their deployment in Afghanistan. Six people, including women and children, were killed in the incident. The notion that Polish soldiers may have committed war crimes is unbearable for a nation that has been the victim of war all too often in its own history.”
Pakistan’s Ongoing Maneuverings
In a bizarre twist of events, Pakistan’s President seems to follow through with a “quid pro quo” arrangement. Antagonistic Supreme Court justices were replaced with justices sympathetic toward the President. The new justices promptly confirmed, in effect, the “legality” of the President’s election. In return, the President subsequently announced that he would step down as Army chief–while continuing to refuse ending martial law. In addition, thousands of detained political opponents were released.
AFP reported on November 19:
“Stripped of hostile judges by [Pakistan’s President] Musharraf under a state of emergency after he feared it would rule he was ineligible for another five-year term, the new-look top court took just over two hours to throw out the cases… ‘There were five petitions, they have all been dismissed. There is only one left, and that will be heard on Thursday,’ attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum told AFP after a hearing from which international media were banned…
“There was no sign of a swift end to the emergency, despite a blunt message Sunday from US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who said it was ‘not compatible’ with holding a free and fair vote.”
Times On Line added on November 20:
“President Musharraf of Pakistan has decided to resign as Army chief by the end of the week, it emerged today. Sources close to the Pakistani President indicated that he wanted to stand down almost immediately if a Supreme Court newly packed with his supporters decides… to reject the final legal challenge to his victory in last month’s election on Thursday…
“Critics of the Pakistani President claim that he engineered the Supreme Court’s decision today by sacking a number of independently-minded judges who had been due to consider the case when the state of emergency was called…”
Further Decline of U.S. Dollar
Bloomberg reported on November 20:
“The dollar fell to a record low against the euro and Swiss franc on concern credit-market losses will slow economic growth, prompting the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates again this year… ‘There are lots of forces working against the dollar,’ said Robert Fullem, vice president of U.S. corporate currency sales at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York. ‘The market sentiment toward the dollar is very negative. You are going to see further declines in the dollar.’… The dollar will decline to $1.50 per euro by the end of the year, according to Fullem.”
U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Handguns
The Associated Press reported on November 20:
“The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the District of Columbia can ban handguns, a case that could produce the most in-depth examination of the constitutional right to ‘keep and bear arms’ in nearly 70 years. The justices’ decision to hear the case could make the divisive debate over guns an issue in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.
“The government of Washington, D.C., is asking the court to uphold its 31-year ban on handgun ownership in the face of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment… The main issue before the justices is whether the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual’s right to own guns or instead merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias. The former interpretation would permit fewer restrictions on gun ownership.
“Gun-control advocates say the Second Amendment was intended to ensure that states could maintain militias, a response to 18th century fears of an all-powerful national government. Gun rights proponents contend the amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns for private uses, including self-defense…
“The Second Amendment reads: ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’…
“Arguments will be heard early next year. The case is District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290.”
Reuters: “U.S. Prison System a Costly and Harmful Failure”
Reuters reported on November 19:
“The number of people in U.S. prisons has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to taxpayers and society, researchers said in a report calling for a major justice-system overhaul… The report was produced by the JFA Institute, a Washington criminal-justice research group, and its authors included eight criminologists from major U.S. public universities… More than 1.5 million people are now in U.S. state and federal prisons, up from 196,429 in 1970, the report said. Another 750,000 people are in local jails. The U.S. incarceration rate is the world’s highest, followed by Russia, according to 2006 figures compiled by Kings College in London.
“Although the U.S. crime rate began declining in the 1990s it is still about the same as in 1973, the JFA report said. But the prison population has soared because sentences have gotten longer and people who violate parole or probation, even with minor lapses, are more likely to be imprisoned. ‘The system is almost feeding on itself now. It takes years and years and years to get out of this system and we do not see any positive impact on the crime rates,’ JFA President James Austin, a co-author of the report, told a news conference. The report said the prison population is projected to grow by another 192,000 in five years, at a cost of $27.5 billion to build and operate additional prisons… Women represent the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, the report said.”
Vatican’s Ties With Israel Worsening
The International Herald Tribune wrote on November 16:
“A senior Vatican diplomat [Archbishop Pietro Sambi] who served as papal envoy to Israel has described Vatican-Israeli relations as worsening, blaming the Jewish state for failing to keep promises related to church land, taxes and travel restrictions on Arab clergy… Asked about Sambi’s criticisms, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: ‘Israel is interested in good relations with the Vatican and Israeli and Vatican officials are working to overcome gaps that exist.’
“Vatican spokesman… Federico Lombardi said the interview with Sambi ‘reflects his thinking and his personal experience’ during the diplomat’s former posting in Israel… Earlier this year, tensions developed between the Vatican and Israel when the Holy See’s ambassador to Israel initially decided to boycott a Holocaust memorial service because of allegations that during World War II Pope Pius XII was silent about the mass killings of Jews.”
Catholic Church’s Canon Law Prohibits Full Ecumenical Relations
The Canadian Press reported on November 14:
“Under pressure from Baltimore’s new Roman Catholic archbishop, a priest resigned as pastor to three parishes and signed a statement apologizing for ‘bringing scandal to the church’ after offences that included officiating at a funeral mass with an Episcopal priest, a violation of canon law. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien ordered the resignation of… Ray Martin, who has led the Catholic Community of South Baltimore for five years, triggering a debate about enforcing Catholic doctrine and the limits of ecumenical relations.”
“If Anyone Will Not Work, Let Him Not Eat”
On November 16, the Catholic News Agency, Zenit, published a noteworthy article, by Raniero Cantalamessa, on work ethics and the Bible. We are quoting the following excerpts:
“It seems that in one of the first Christian communities, that of Thessalonica, there were believers who… thought that it was useless to weary themselves, to work or do anything since everything was about to come to an end. They thought it better to take each day as it came and not commit themselves to long-term projects and only to do the minimum to get by… Paul responds to them in the second reading: ‘We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.’ At the beginning of the passage,… Paul recalls the rule that he had given to the Christians in Thessalonica: ‘If anyone will not work, let him not eat.’
“This was a novelty for the men of that time. The culture to which they belonged looked down upon manual labor; it was regarded as degrading and as something to be left to slaves and the uneducated. But the Bible has a different vision. From the very first page it presents God as working for six days and resting on the seventh day. And all of this happens in the Bible before sin is spoken of. Work, therefore, is part of man’s original nature and is not something that results from guilt and punishment. Manual labor is just as dignified as intellectual and spiritual labor. Jesus himself dedicates 17 years to the former — supposing he began to work around 13 — and only a few years to the latter… A person who has done the most humble jobs in life can be of greater ‘value’ than those people who hold positions of great prestige.
“It was said that work is a participation in the creative action of God and in the redemptive action of Christ and that it is a source of personal and social growth, but we know that it is also weariness, sweat and pain. It can ennoble but it can also empty and wear down. The secret is to put one’s heart into what one’s hands do. It is not so much the amount or type of work done that tires us out, as much as it is the lack of enthusiasm and motivation. To the earthly motivations for work, faith adds eternal motivations: ‘Our works,’ the Book of Revelation says, ‘will follow us’ (14:13).”
Terrible Devastation of Bangladesh Cyclone
The Telegraph wrote on November 20:
“Up to 15,000 people were killed and seven million lives left devastated by the cyclone in Bangladesh last week, aid agencies have said as the full extent of the disaster became clear… In the worst affected districts, 90 per cent of homes and 95 per cent of rice crops and valuable prawn farms were obliterated by the winds, which generated a 20ft tidal surge that swept everything from its path… Officials described the humanitarian situation in coastal districts like Barguna, 130 miles south of the capital Dhaka, as the ‘worst in decades’, a grave assertion in a country that is used to dealing with annual floods and storms… Village after village has been shattered. Millions of people are living out in the open and relief is reaching less than one percent of the people. When reached, victims are being found dehydrated and in a state of shock.”
The Associated Press reported on November 19:
“Survivors said many of the deaths could have been prevented but people failed to heed warnings to move to higher ground as the storm approached Thursday…
“Many foreign governments and international groups… pledged to help.
“The United States offered $2.1 million and two U.S. Marine Corps transport planes arrived in Dhaka with medical supplies, said Chowdhury, the army spokesman. An American military medical team was already in Bangladesh and two U.S. Navy ships, each carrying at least 20 helicopters and tons of supplies, would be made available if the Bangladesh government requested them, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.
“The European Union promised $2.2 million and the British government $5.1 million. Italy’s Roman Catholic bishops conference said it would donate $2.9 million. The governments of Germany and France each pledged $730,000, Japan sent $318,000 in relief supplies, and the Philippines said it would provide a medical team.
“Bangladesh is a densely populated nation sitting on a vast river delta. Storms batter its low-lying lands every year, often killing large numbers of people. The most deadly recent storm was a tornado that leveled 80 villages in northern Bangladesh in 1996, killing 621 people. A 1991 cyclone killed about 140,000 people near the city of Chittagong, and a storm in 1985 left some 11,000 dead. One of the worst disasters came in 1970, when a cyclone’s 20-foot-high storm surge killed an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people.”
AFP reported on November 21:
“Bangladesh’s army said Wednesday it had finally reached most parts of its cyclone-hit southern coastline where millions of desperate survivors were at risk from starvation and disease. Six days after cyclone Sidr smashed in from the Bay of Bengal, small amounts of aid were at last getting through to most places but villagers — most of whom have lost family members and livelihoods — said much more was needed… Up to four million people in the area, one of the poorest places on the planet, have been left destitute and without adequate food and water.”
Does 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 teach a "secret rapture"?
It does not. Please look carefully at the context of the passage in light of other Biblical evidence.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 reads:
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Some Bible commentaries conclude from the words “shall be caught up… in the clouds,” that those in Christ will be secretly transported to heaven, and then later return visibly–together with Christ–to rule the world. Notice, for example, the comments of the Ryrie Study Bible:
“The dead in Christ shall rise first, when the Lord comes for His people (v. 17). Then living believers will be ‘caught up.’ From the Latin for ‘caught up’ comes the term ‘rapture.’ The rapture or catching up of believers described here involves both those who have died and those who are living when the Lord comes. His coming here is ‘in the air,’ not to the earth, and will occur just prior to the beginning of the tribulation period (see Rev. 3:10). That period will end with His coming to the earth (see [Matthew] 24:29-30; [Revelation]19:11-16).”
Not everyone agrees with that explanation. Note the following statements by the New Bible Commentary: Revised:
“‘To meet the Lord’ (Gk. ‘eis apantesin tou kyriou’): When a dignitary paid an official visit … to a city in Hellenistic times, the action of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escorting him on the final stage of his journey was called the ‘apantesis’; it is similarly used in [Matthew] 25:6; Acts 28:15. So the Lord is pictured as escorted to the earth by His people–those newly raised from death and those who have remained alive.”
F.F. Bruce’s International Bible Commentary agrees: “To meet is used in the papyri of the official reception given to a visiting governor, whom his citizens escort into the city from which they have come to meet him.”
The same conclusion is reached by the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, where we read:
“‘together with them’–all together: the raised dead, and changed living, forming one joint body, ‘in the clouds’–Greek ‘in clouds.’ The same honor is conferred on them as on their Lord. As He was taken in a cloud at His ascension (Acts 1:9), so at His return with clouds ([Revelation] 1:7), they shall be caught up in clouds. The clouds are His and their triumphal chariot ([Psalm] 104:3; [Daniel] 7:13)… ‘in the air’–rather, ‘INTO the air’; caught up INTO the region just above the earth, where the MEETING (cf. [Matthew] 25:1, 6) shall take place between them ascending, and their Lord descending towards the earth. Not that the air is to be the place of their LASTING ABODE with Him… His point being established… he [Paul] leaves undefined here the other events foretold elsewhere (as not being necessary to his discussion), Christ’s reign on earth with His saints (1 [Corinthians] 6:2, 3)…”
In an Editorial in Update 243 (May 12, 2006), the following is stated:
“Theologians have felt the need to explain God’s mercy and justice by developing the concept of the ‘secret rapture.’ The assumption is that Jesus will first come secretly for His disciples or saints by ‘rapturing’ them to heaven where they will be protected during the time of the ‘Great Tribulation’ which will ravage the earth. According to that theory, Christ will return with His disciples or saints from heaven to this earth after that terrible time of devastation has past. Books and movies have popularized this idea in recent years–known as the ‘Left Behind’ series.
“However, as ‘The Plain Truth’ magazine explains in an article, which was published in February of 1963, ‘The idea of a secret rapture of the saints was unknown to any Christian body before the sixteenth century. Joseph Ribera, Cardinal Bellarmine and Alcasar, Jesuit Priests of the sixteenth century, were the first Christian authorities to promulgate this idea. Even in their day the idea was unclear, but the basic roots of the doctrine began at this time (sources omitted). Later, around 1825, Samuel R. Maitland, Librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, embraced the belief, although its basic tenets were still unclear in his day. It wasn’t until 1830 that this belief began to take its modern definition. The Catholic Apostolic Church had its beginning in 1830. It was founded in Britain… by men who claimed divine inspiration. They said the Holy Spirit revealed to them that the last days had come, that the Lord was about to return, that first He would ‘rapture’ the believers who were ready, at a secret coming… after which [i.e., the great tribulation] Christ would come in manifest power’ (sources omitted).”
“The Bible does not teach a secret rapture. Rather, God’s Word reveals that Christ will return ONCE, NOT TWICE (Hebrews 9:28). He will come openly, not in secret (Matthew 24:21-31; Revelation 1:7; Acts 1:10-11), and He will END the Great Tribulation at the time of His Coming by establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth (Revelation 11:15-18). Mark 13:24-27 specifically states: “But in those days, AFTER that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. THEN they will SEE the Son of Man COMING in the clouds with great power and glory. And THEN [not before then] He will send His angels, and GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT…”
“Christ will come at the time of the LAST TRUMPET when His elect will be resurrected from the dead or changed to immortality (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-52). There can only be ONE last trumpet, which means, there can only be ONE return of Christ.”
To interject, the Bible speaks about the last trumpet as the SEVENTH trumpet. In the book of Revelation, we read that seven angels will blow seven trumpets, but that at the time of the seventh trumpet–logically the last one–“the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). The seven angels blow the seven last trumpets AFTER the Great Tribulation has begun–in fact, when the seventh angel blows the seventh or last trumpet, the Great Tribulation will have ENDED. Christ returns to shorten the time of the Great Tribulation, lest all human beings on the earth would die (compare Matthew 24:21-22).
To continue with the above-mentioned Editorial:
“However, the Bible reveals that there can be protection from the terrible times to come–but that protection will not be provided in heaven, but on earth. As we explain in our free booklet, ‘The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,’ beginning on page 58, Christ promises His people, who are worthy, a way to ‘escape all these things that will come to pass’ (Luke 21:34-36; compare Revelation 3:10; Zephaniah 2:3; Psalm 31:19-20). That ‘place of refuge’ (Proverbs 14:26) will be on this earth–not in heaven (Revelation 12:14; Isaiah 33:16; Isaiah 26:20-21). Yes, God will have prepared ‘a place for us’ to protect us from the Great Tribulation. Even though God CAN protect us anywhere He wants, He has decreed that His people will be protected at a certain place here on earth–the place of safety and ‘shelter’ (Joel 3:14-16). Christ compares the time preceding His coming with the time of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39), and as God protected Noah and his family in the ark, here on earth, so He will protect His people on this earth in the way that HE has chosen. And He will NOT protect them by ‘rapturing’ them to heaven!
“The idea of a rapture to heaven–secret or otherwise–is nowhere taught in Scripture. It is an invention by man which can give us no real hope, as it is not based on God’s Word. But God does offer us His protection, if we prove ourselves worthy to receive it.”
To re-emphasize, the Bible nowhere teaches two comings of Christ–or a secret rapture to heaven. The FACT that Christ’s Church will be protected here on EARTH–at a “place of safety” DURING the time of the Great Tribulation–PROVES that His Church will not be at that time in heaven–nor, that it was transferred to heaven before the Great Tribulation by means of a “secret rapture.”
But, this does not mean–as some have begun to erroneously teach–that Christ will return before the Great Tribulation and take His Church to a place of safety here on earth, where He will dwell with His Church during the time of the Great Tribulation. This teaching is likewise without any Biblical support; in fact, Christ warns against such teaching, when He says in Matthew 24:26-27: “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out… For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” His return will be clear and obvious and visible for all alive. Revelation 1:7 says: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, AND EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM.”
Some have advanced the idea that we will be caught up to meet Christ in the air and then proceed to rule the earth from heaven–either from the sky or from the “third heaven,” where God dwells. This concept is likewise without any Biblical merit. We read in Revelation 5:9-10, how the angels praise Jesus Christ for having redeemed His people through His blood: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seal, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (New International Version).
Another passage alluded to by some, that He will come as a thief in the night (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4), describes the timing of His coming. The world will not expect His return at that time. It does not talk about the manner of His coming (visibly or secretly). Compare also Matthew 24:36-44.
We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we will meet the returning Christ, at His coming, in the air. This is not referring to the third heaven, but to the atmosphere of our earth, which has air and clouds. We read that we will be with Christ from that time on. We read that Christ will descend on that same day to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4), and we will be with Him (Zechariah 14:5). As mentioned earlier, Christ’s disciples will meet Christ in the air and will accompany Him back to earth. The angels had told the apostles that Christ would come back in the same manner as He had left them. They were on the Mount of Olives, and He left them visibly on a cloud (Acts 1:9-11).
2 Thessalonians 2:1 also talks about the coming of Christ and OUR GATHERING with Him. Remember that Christ GATHERS His elect when He returns VISIBLY (compare again Mark 13:24-27). At that time, He will take care of the “lawless one” (compare verse 8). Again, this is one and the same event–there are no two comings described.
In conclusion, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 does not introduce a secret rapture, but it describes the resurrection of those who died in Christ and the change to immortality of those true Christians who are alive when Christ returns (compare 1 Corinthians 15:50-52). Christ will return visibly–every eye will see Him. The Bible reveals only ONE return–ONE second coming. When it occurs, the dead in Christ will be resurrected to immortality, and those in Christ who are alive will be changed to immortality. All of this will occur at the time of the LAST or SEVENTH trumpet. Christ will return AFTER the Great Tribulation, not BEFORE then. He will come to shorten those days. The Bible simply does not ALLOW for a secret rapture, and those who hope and expect to be transferred to heaven will be “left behind” and waiting in vain.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
Are we still required to keep the Law of God? Or did Christ abolish it? But if He did, why does John say that it is the love of God to keep His commandments; and that sin is the transgression of the Law? Why does Paul say that the wages of sin is death; and that the Law of God is holy and just and good? And why does James say that we are judged by the royal law of liberty, and that we break the entire Law, if we just transgress one of the commandments? Surely, much confusion abounds as to whether or not true Christians are to keep the Law of the Ten Commandments.
Our new booklet on the Sacrificial System and the Tabernacle in the Wilderness has entered the second review cycle.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
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