1 Tim 4:13 (NIV) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Rev 1:3 (RSV) Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.
The purpose of this study is not to teach a specific eschatology, but to meditate on the Scriptures concerning the rapture and day of the Lord for the purpose of preparing ourselves--preparing our hearts and minds--to meet the Lord Jesus when he returns. Ready Or Not...
Are we looking to the skies, longing for the return of Jesus with power? Is the cry of our hearts: "Come, Lord Jesus!" or is it "Let's wrestle some more," or "Just let me indulge my flesh a little longer, then I'll repent." Will the events of the end of the age strike us with hope and joy, or dread?
This study is meant to be an act of worship. Don't skim or read it piecemeal. Wait until you can devote 20-40 minutes to meditate on the Lord. If possible, read the Scriptures aloud with someone. We may need these scriptures, lodged in our souls, very soon.
We start with the words of Christ in the Olivette discourse. Notice how Jesus focuses on how we should respond. The things He "tells us in advance" are meant to produce the proper response in us, the purpose for which the Word was spoken. Things like repentance, holiness, and faith; NOT speculation, obsession, division over the specific details of the prophecy. In the same Spirit, Joel, Paul, John, and Peter encourage us to prepare ourselves for the end of the age.
The Olivette Discourse: Interwoven From Matthew, Mark, and Luke
Mat 24:3-9 (NIV) As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."
Mat 24:10-14 (NIV) "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Mark 13:11 (Phi) "...do not worry beforehand about what you are going to say--simply say the words you are given when the time comes. For it is not really you who will speak, but the Holy Spirit."
Luke 21:12-16 (Phi) "...handing you over to synagogue or prison, or bringing you before kings and governors, for my name's sake. This will be your chance to witness for me. So make up your minds not to think out your defense beforehand. I will give you such eloquence and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict it. But you will be betrayed, even by parents and brothers and kinsfolk and friends..."
Luke 21:20 (NIV) "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that it's desolation is near."
Mat 24:21-25 (NIV) "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."
Mark 13:23 (NIV) "So be on your guard, I have told you everything ahead of time."
Mat 24:26-27 (NIV) "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
Isa 34:4 (NIV) All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.
Mat 24:29-31 (NIV) "Immediately after the distress of those days, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."
Luke 21:25-28 (NIV) "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Mat 24:32-35 (NIV) "Now learn a lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."
Mat 24:36-42 (NIV) "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."
Mat 24:43-44 (NIV) "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Mat 24:45-51 (NIV) "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away for a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."
Luke 21:34-36 (Phi) "Be on your guard--see to it that your minds are never clouded by dissipation or drunkenness or the worries of this life, or else that day may catch you like the springing of a trap--for it will come upon every inhabitant of the whole earth. You must be vigilant at all times, praying that you may be strong enough to come safely through all that is going to happen, and stand in the presence of the Son of Man."
Joel, Paul on The Nature of The End
Joel 2:28-32 (NIV) "...I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved... "
1 Thes 4:16-18 (Phi) One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever and ever. So by all means use this message to encourage one another.
1 Thes 5:1-6 (Phi) But as far as times and seasons go, my brothers, you don't need written instructions. You are well aware that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When men are saying "Peace and Security", catastrophe will sweep down upon them as suddenly and inescapably as birth-pangs to a pregnant woman. But because you, my brothers, are not living in darkness the day cannot take you by surprise, like a burglar! You are all sons of light, sons of the day, and none of us belongs to darkness of the night. Let us then never fall asleep, like the rest of the world: let us keep awake, with our wits about us.
An Epistle of Correction to Set Right a Counterfeit Letter
2 Thes 2:1-4 (NIV) Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above everything that is called God or is worshipped, and even sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
2 Thes 2:5,9-12,15 (NIV) Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness... So then brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
1 Cor 1:7-9 (Phi) And you have been eager to receive his gifts during this time of waiting for his final appearance. He will keep you steadfast in the faith to the end, so that when his day comes you need fear no condemnation. God is utterly dependable, and it is he who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Heb 10:25 (Phi) And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another's faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing nearer.
1 Pet 4:7-11 (NIV) The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever spiritual gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Christ Jesus. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Jn 2:28-3:3 (Phi) Yes, now, little children remember to live continually in him. So that if he were to reveal himself we should have confidence, and not have to shrink away from his presence in shame. You all know that God is really good. You may be just as sure that the man who leads a really good life is a true child of God. Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called "children of God"--and that is not just what we are called, but what we ARE. This explains why the world will no more recognize us than it will recognize Christ. Here and now, my dear friends, we are God's children. We don't know what we shall become in the future. We only know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is! Everyone who has at heart a hope like that keeps himself pure, as Christ is pure.
1 Cor 15:50-52 (Phi) Listen, and I will tell you a secret. We shall not all die, but suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, every one of us will be changed as the last trumpet sounds! For the trumpet will sound and the dead shall be raised beyond the reach of corruption, and we shall be changed.
Rev 11:15,18 (Phi) The seventh angel blew his trumpet... Now is the time for destroying the destroyers of the earth!"
Phil 1:6,8-10 (Phi) I am confident of this: that the One who has begun his good work in you will go on developing it until the day of Jesus Christ... God knows how much I long, with the deep love and affection of Christ Jesus, for your companionship. My prayer for you is that you may have still more love--a love that is full of knowledge and every wise insight. I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Christ.
2 Pet 3:1-7 (Phi) I have tried to stimulate you, as men with minds uncontaminated by error, by reminding you of what you really know already. This means recalling the words spoken of old by the holy prophets as well as the commands of our Lord and savior given to you through his messengers. First of all you must realize that in the last days cynical mockers will undoubtedly come--men whose only guide in life is what they want for themselves--and they will say, "Where is his promised coming? Since our fathers fell asleep, everything remains exactly as it was since the beginning of creation!" They are deliberately shutting their eyes to the fact that there were heavens in the old days and an earth formed by God's command out of water and by water. It was by water that the world of those days was deluged and destroyed, but the present heavens and earth are, also by God's command, being carefully kept and maintained for the fire of the day of judgment and the destruction of wicked men.
2 Pet 3:7-9 (Phi) But you should never lose sight of the fact, dear friends, that with the Lord a day may be a thousand years, and a thousand years only a day. It is not that he is slow about keeping his own promise as some men seem to think; the fact is that he is very patient with you. He has no wish that any man be destroyed; He wishes that all men should find the way to repentance. Yet the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. In that day the heavens will vanish in a tearing blast, the very elements will disintegrate in heat and the earth and all its works will disappear.
2 Pet 3:10-14 (Phi) In view of the fact that all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? Surely men of good and holy character, who live expecting and working for the coming of the day of God. This day will mean that the heavens will disintegrate in fire and the burning elements will melt, but our hopes are set on new heavens and a new earth which he has promised us, in which justice will make its home. Because, my dear friends, you have a hope like this before you, I urge you to make certain that the day will find you at peace with God, flawless and blameless in his sight.
Rev 22:12-16,20 (NIV) "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright Morning Star." ..."He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
Why Doesn't God Just Show Up Now?
C.S. Lewis: "God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.
"God is going to invade, all right, but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else--something it never entered your head to conceive--comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choices left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side... That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not.
"Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it."
Tozer Excerpt on Advent Hope