Prophecy simply tells what is going to happen in the future so we can prepare for it before it
happens. God has revealed the future in the Scriptures. He wants us to know exactly what
His plan is so our lives will be in keeping with what He promises for the future.
To understand Bible prophecy, we need to be consistent in the literal interpretation of prophecy.
In John 14, Christ promised to return and take the Believers to heaven with Him. The word "Rapture" isn't in the Bible, it is the term we use to describe this event.
The Rapture is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. It's the movement of the "church", which is composed solely of Believers, from earth to heaven. It's in definite contrast to the Second Coming of Christ when the "church" will return to earth with Christ. This Second Coming will be seven or more years after the Rapture. When you interpret prophecy literally, the Rapture, for the Christian, is the most important event yet to be fulfilled. It can happen any time and that makes it very important.
As far as Scripture revelation is concerned, the Rapture could have occurred in the first century A.D. The Thessalonians were expecting it in their lifetime. 20 centuries have passed but that hasn't changed the fact that the Rapture is imminent. Obviously, the Rapture grows nearer as the years pass. The Believer is told to look for “the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)
There are three main areas of prophecy in the Bible, Israel, the Gentile nations, and "the church." In the twentieth century we witnessed some amazing events. Since World War II major changes have occurred in all three areas of prophecy. Israel is back in the land. The United Nations was formed as an attempt at world government. And the world church movement, described as the harlot on the scarlet beast in Revelation 17, has started to form.
The powerful nations of Europe [European Union or EU] seem to be at peace with each other and have even established a common currency. This makes the revived Roman Empire, described in Daniel 7 and Revelation 17 as a confederacy of ten kings that will come in the days immediately following the Rapture, an even more possible situation.
These changes among Israel, the Gentile nations, and the church, fit right in with what the Scriptures describe as events during the Tribulation. And, since the Rapture will precede the Tribulation, the Rapture could be very soon.
The prophecy of apostasy, both spiritual and moral, is also clearly overtaking the professing church. It's true that there is a lot of curiosity about prophecy today, even among the secular, but this hasn't resulted in the revival of the church nor a lot of people coming to Christ. In fact a "falling away" [2 Thessalonians 2:3 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first,"] is predicted and that is the case at the present time.
God's literal fulfillment of prophecy in the past should lead us to expect that each remaining prophecy will be literally fulfilled in the future.
Under present conditions, can Israel stay in the Promised Land without being overpowered by the Palestinians? Will she be forced to co-exist in her own land with the Palestinians?
How long will it be before the United Nations, which is overwhelmingly anti-Israel, becomes even more powerful and turns militarily on Israel?
The framework is in place for the events described in Scripture that follow the Rapture.
Once again the three main topics of prophecy are:Much of the prophecy concerning the Rapture of "the church" is governed by prophecy already fulfilled concerning Israel. Had Israel not rejected the Messiah, (the Old Testament prophesied she would), Christ would not have been crucified, "the church" would not have been instituted by God, and there would be no need for the Rapture.
1. Israel, a constant theme in the Old Testament and the Revelation.
2. The Gentile nations as relating to Israel, especially as described in Daniel and Revelation.
3. "The church," revealed only in the New Testament.
The main topic of Daniel 2 is prophecy concerning Gentile nations that would rule over Israel. It describes the vision God gave Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, of a large statue. Many times Old Testament prophecies were given as visions and/or dreams so they need to be understood for the events they portrayed.
This image had a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, body and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay mixed. (Daniel 2:32-33). The head of gold represented Babylonian rule. The chest and the arms of silver represented the next empire, the combined Medes and Persians. The torso and thighs of bronze symbolized Greece, and the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay mixed stand for Rome. The first three empires are named in Daniel 7 and 8, and they all ruled over Israel.
The fourth empire, represented by the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay, is not named, but since Rome followed the Greek Empire in history, it's the Roman Empire, and it was the greatest of all these empires to rule Israel. Roman rule, represented by the legs, has already been fulfilled in the history. The feet, consisting of an iron-clay mixture, are prophetic of the final revival of the Roman Empire which will be a confederacy of ten nations and is yet to be fulfilled. Daniel 7:24a. "And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them;"
In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, the image is struck by a rock that was cut out without hands and it crushes the image. The rock, in turn, becomes a huge mountain that fills the whole earth. This anticipates prophetically the second coming of Christ, the crushing of Gentile powers who oppose Him, and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in the world. These events will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ.
It's important to distinguish between prophecy for Israel and for "the church." The Old Testament deals mainly with Israel. Gentiles were dealt with only when they had a direct bearing on Israel. The Old Testament writers didn't anticipate God dealing with the human race, Gentiles in particular, in the way He does in the present age.
The Old Testament provided for the salvation of the Gentiles, but it didn't anticipate that God would create a new people with Jews and Gentiles being merged into one spiritual body called "the church." Jesus told Simon Peter that “on this rock [which is Christ, the Son of God] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).
Paul's epistles revealed how God would include Gentile believers into that church. His purpose is to provide a spiritual Bride for Christ. "The church" would be gathered from the whole human race and made up solely of believers in Jesus Christ.
It began on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to indwell every believer. They were baptized into the body of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, on an equal basis. Believers were born again before Pentecost, but they didn't yet have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
For a time after Christ died the apostles didn't understand that salvation for the Gentiles is the
same as it is for the Jews. Ephesians 3:4-6. "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand
my knowledge in the mystery of Christ 5: Which in other ages was not made known
unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the
Spirit; 6: That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers
of his promise in Christ by the gospel:"
When Peter was called to preach the gospel to the Roman Centurion, he, Cornelius, along with his whole household, believed. As new Gentile believers they were given the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10) Peter understood for the first time that Gentile believers were also genuinely saved.
In the years following World War II, a world church movement was started in an attempt to unite all church groups. This brought about the establishment of the World Council of Churches in 1948. On the surface its members agreed on Christ as the central character in Christianity, but in reality, the world church actually no longer held to true Christianity. Christianity and the world church movement has largely been controlled by liberals and radicals.
A prominent minister in a large Protestant denomination stated this; "To predict the future by Bible prophecy makes Christianity laughable." Obviously, he, and many others, are overlooking the fact that significant prophecies are even being fulfilled today.
The Word of God is full of promises that are, in effect, prophecies of what will happen when certain conditions are met. The fact that people are getting saved today is fulfillment of prophecy from Genesis 12:3, "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
Another prophecy is the building of "the church" stated in Matthew 16. That "church," which is to be the Bride of Christ and consisting of all believers, is being built today, inevitably and absolutely, by the power and will of God. God is still demonstrating His power to fulfill prophecy in many ways.
The next phase in God's plan for the Believer, as I see it, is the Rapture. That will be followed immediately, in heaven, by the Judgment Seat of Christ. When the Believer reaches heaven with Christ, their works will be evaluated as to their eternal value. This is not a matter of our salvation or of sin but of the eternal worth of our service for Him in this life. Believers are promised rewards there. 2 Corinthians 5:10. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or worthless.”
God promises that our labor for Him is going to be rewarded.
1 Corinthians 15:58. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
2 Timothy 4:8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
We also need to prepare to come to the Judgment Seat of Christ for these rewards. Salvation isn't even an issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you aren't saved, you won't be there. If you aren't born again, your judgment will come later at God's Great White Throne Judgment.
The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace because of the death of Christ and is not based on any works on the part of believers. Believers are already forgiven of sin, justified, and declared righteous. Romans 5:1. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"
God sees the Believer in the perfect righteousness of Christ. If this is true, and it is, the issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ is whether our works after we are saved are profitable for God.
The Believer will not be judged on moral issues [sin], but on value issues. It involves intent, or true motive, more than physical works. 1 Corinthians 4:5. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." What we have done with our life will be judged as to whether it is good and in the will of God or of ourselves and of little value.
It will be a time of accountability because our salvation carries with it certain responsibilities. Our salvation is a work of God which includes the fact that God has trusted us with the responsibility of serving Him effectively. Ephesians 2:10 says "you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
1 Corinthians 3 likens our works to the construction of a building. Verses 10-11: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11: For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Paul's spiritual foundation, and ours, is Jesus Christ.
Verses 12-13 list different materials one can use in building on this foundation. “12: Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13: Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."
In Scripture gold is usually used in reference to the glory of God, silver to redemption (Leviticus 27:1-8), and precious stones to works. Verse 14-15: "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15: If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
If we attempt to build for God with works whose only value is in this world's scheme of things, likened to wood, hay, and stubble, God's righteous fire will test them and burn them up.
If they measure up to God's righteous testing like gold, silver, and precious stones withstand fire, we will be rewarded.
A major motivation in our service should be our love for Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
A Christian who is walking in fellowship with God will be serving God, not simply for the hope of reward, but for the opportunity we have of showing the Lord that we love Him and want to serve and honor Him in our lives. Wood, hay, and stubble can be found anywhere. Gold, silver, and precious stones have to be sincerely worked for.
Again I want to emphasize that the issue of salvation is not in question at the Judgment Seat of Christ because every believer is saved eternally. It is a question of what we have done, after our salvation, that is regarded as worthwhile before God. The results will be revealed and rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ.
Any loss we may suffer will be the rewards we won't get because we neglected opportunities to serve God.
God wants the believers to yield our hearts to the Lord. We will give an account to God of what we did with what He has entrusted to us. No two of us have exactly the same responsibilities, the same gifts, or the same opportunities. Each person will be judged and rewarded on the basis of what he did with the opportunities God has given him.
Remember, the Judgment Seat is an award ceremony and something the believer can look forward to. If we serve the Lord sincerely we will be rewarded. The Scriptures don't tell us much about what these rewards will involve. God may give each Christian a different activity for service. Scripture simply states “his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).
The wonderful future that is promised the Believer emphasizes just how important it is for us to realize that the Rapture could be very near and that what is now prophecy will be completely fulfilled. The Rapture could very well come early in this twenty-first century.
Do you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour?
Will you stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ
and collect your rewards?
Or will you stand before God
at the Great White Throne Judgment
and plead guilty of rejecting the salvation
offered through the blood of His dear Son?
Paul wrote that
every knee will bow to God
and that every tongue will confess
our deeds to Him.
Romans 14:11-12: “For it is written,
As I live, saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God
12: So then every one of us
shall give account of himself to God."
The sad fact is that if a person doesn't confess
their sins to God and trust Jesus Christ
for their salvation in this life,
God won't accept that confession after this life.
It will be too late to do it in the life to come
and that person will suffer eternal judgment.
The choice is yours.