March 8, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
The more I study the Word and look at world events, the more I am convinced that this is indeed the generation that will see the Church caught away to meet the Lord in the air. There are some extremely dark days ahead for the world. There are some dark days ahead for the United States. There are some very bright days ahead, some glorious days, for the Body of Christ. I believe that Isaiah 60:1, 2 is this generations verse. The Bible says,
1 Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.
2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you. [Isa. 60:1, 2 NKJV] I believe we are seeing this today, and will see it in the challenging days ahead. I believe that we will see some, as far as the flesh is concerned, very frightening events in the near future. Every believer is going to have to be certain about whom they have believed. Every Christian is going to have to have a solid grasp of what they believe, and why they believe it.
Although I believe we will see some dark days ahead in the world, I do not believe that the Church will be on the earth for the events of the Great Tribulation. This is a literal period of seven years in which the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will be absent from the earth, when evil and godlessness will have free reign. I want to emphasize that I am convinced that Jesus will rapture the church prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation. This is known as the pre-tribulation rapture. There is disagreement among Biblical scholarship concerning this doctrine. I respect my brethren who hold to different eschatological viewpoints, but I must teach what I believe the Bible the says. I do not believe that one’s view of the rapture and Bible prophecy should be a basis for fellowship. Again, I also believe that those of us who hold to the pre-tribulation position are on solid Biblical and historical ground. That is what we have been discussing in the last couple of editions of THE WEEKLY WORD.
There can be no doubt, in my opinion, that the New Testament writers expected Jesus to Return in their lifetime. As we study their writings, as well as those of scholars and writers of the first three centuries following Christ; we see that pre-millennial teaching definitely held a prominent place among the disciples who personally knew the twelve and those whom they discipled. We have been sharing quotes from many of them. We shall continue that this week. I believe that we have some information that will both be interesting and a blessing to you.
Toward the end of the Second Century, the theologian Hippolytus (A.D. 170 – 236) wrote about the fact that the prophecies all pointed to a final fulfillment during the “last days” during the final generation of this age: “These words then being thus presented, let us observe somewhat in detail what Daniel says in his visions. For in distinguishing the kingdoms that are to rise after these things, he showed also the coming of the Anti-Christ in the last times, and the consummation of the whole world.” It is significant that every one of the early Christian writers taught that the prophecies of Daniel, Revelation, and Matthew 24 would be fulfilled in the last days at the end of this age until the publications of Origen (A.D. 185 – 254).
The respected Church historian John Mosheim wrote, “The prevailing opinion that Christ was to come and reign a thousand years among men before the final dissolution of the world , had met with no opposition previous to the time of Origen.”
Another ancient document was known as the Didache (also known as the testimony of the twelve Apostles). It is an important Church document from the first two years of the second century (approximately A.D. 110) that gives us vital insights into beliefs that were dominant in the primitive Church. The following statement in an early Christian document, Didache 16:17, indicates the strongly held belief in the Second Coming; “Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.”
There are many quotes along this line that we could share. Here is another one. The brilliant Church historian Hippolytus (A.D. 200) wrote about the Christian belief in the two advents of Christ: “For through the scriptures we are instructed in two advents of the Christ and Saviour. And the first after the flesh was in humiliation, because He was manifested in lowly estate. So then the Second Advent is declared to be in glory; for He comes from Heaven with power, and angels, and the glory of His Father. His first advent had John the Baptist as its forerunner; and His second in which He is to come in glory, will exhibit Enoch, and Elias, and John the Divine.”
The prevailing teaching of the primitive Church was that Christ could return at any moment. They believed in the imminent return of Christ. It was their hope. The French historian Jean Baptiste Massillon (1663 – 1742) acknowledged that “in the days of primitive Christianity it would have been deemed a kind of apostasy not to sigh for the return of the Lord.” How different from today! Today you are labeled a “false prophet” or a “prophecy speculator” in many circles if you love His appearing and say, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” You are considered to be on the fringe of orthodoxy or to be at best eccentric in your teaching.
This will not keep me from preaching the imminent Return of our Lord. Next time I want to take a second look at a passage of scripture that is not often taught as a rapture scripture but I believe should be.
If you are interested in further reading on the historicity of pre-millennial theology, please visit
http://grantjeffrey.com where he has many articles and resources available to you.
The Weekly Word is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3. Here the Bible says,
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. [2 Thess. 2:1 – 3 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson