Should Christians study prophecy?

It seems that many Christians are unwilling to engage in serious study of books that speak of future events, like Revelation. Some do not even like to read those books. Christians shy away from the study of end times prophecy because of the difficulty in understanding the subject matter and the many different opinions taught about the end of the world. The study of the Bible’s teachings about the end times is certainly challenging, but is this a good reason to avoid the subject? Does the Bible give any reasons why Christians should study prophecy?

Christians should study prophecy because it is a significant portion of the Bible. Scripture contains over 31,000 verses and a quarter of them are prophetic in nature. Some of the prophecies have already been fulfilled, but there are many still awaiting fulfillment. Most of Revelation, large portions of Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel contain prophecies of the end times. One of the longest recorded sermons of Jesus (Matthew 24-25) speaks of the end times. To neglect the study of prophecy is to neglect the study of large portions of the Bible.

Christians should study prophecy because it shows the faihtfulness of God. The prophetic passages reveal the wrath of God on sin, show how God is going to fulfill all the promises He made to the saints of the Old Testament and assure the Christian that salvation brings eternal blessings. The study of prophecy shows that God has kept His Word and that He will continue to do so throughout all eternity.

One of the common objections against studying prophecy is the rampant speculations and crazy predictions from the prophecy “experts’. God did not tell us His future plans so Christians could attempt to figure out exactly when Jesus is going to return or could create crazy speculations about the relation of lunar eclipses to the end times. Christians should study prophecy so they will know how to live in this life in light of Christ’s return.

God has revealed how Christians are to apply the prophetic passages. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” (2 Peter 3:12) The return of Jesus, the establishment of His kingdom on earth, the judgment of the lost, the destruction of all things and the establishment of eternity should all motivate the Christian to live holy and godly lives in this world. The study of prophecy challenges the Christian to live today for eternity.

One caution must be given. While the study of the end times is good and profitable, care must be taken to not overemphasize its importance. The Christian ought to have an undersanding of all the Word. To neglect any portion of the Bible is dangerous. If a person only studies the prophetic passages, then significant and essential portions of the Bible will be ignored. The study of prophecy should not be neglected, neither should the study of prophecy cause the Christian to neglect the other doctrines of the Bible.

The difficult study of end times prophecies is worthwhile for every Christian. God promises, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3)

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Will the rapture be secret?

When the rapture happens all living believers will be taken directly into heaven. At the same time all deceased believers will be resurrected. This sudden event will happen just before the anti-Christ comes to power and the tribulation begins. Those who reject the doctrine of the rapture use the name “secret rapture” as a derogatory term to discredit the idea. Some preachers have taught that Christians will disappear and no one on earth will know what happened. The rapture is a Biblical doctrine, but does the Bible say it will be a secret event?

Often we have questions about the Bible that it does not answer. Scripture gives very little attention to the rapture. For example, the Bible never describes the response of those left behind. Most of the material in the popular treatments of the rapture, like the Left Behind books and movies, is pure fiction. Though the Bible says nothing about the immediate aftermath of the rapture, it seems certain that the disappearance of millions of people from the earth will capture the attention of the world.

What the Bible does say about the rapture gives the sense of a dramatic event that will shake the world. The Bible describes archangels sounding trumpets, graves emptying and believers disappearing. Many think only Christians will hear the heavenly trumpets, but why? The Bible never says who will or will not hear the trumpet. Since 1 Corinthians 15 describes the events of the rapture as happening in the blink of an eye, we can safely assume that the saved will not float gently up into the air to drift slowly out of sight. Graves will suddenly empty and Chrsitians will disappear. It seems very unlikely that no one will notice these things when they happen. The rapture can hardly be called a secret event.

However, the real question is, will those left behind understand what is happening? Most of the world will probably not recognize the theological significance of the disappearance of all Christians. Those familiar with the Biblical teaching of the rapture will probably figure out what has happened. But since those left behind will be the ones who did not believe the gospel, it is safe to assume they will be tempted to seek explanations other than that God took all believers to heaven. The Bible does not teach that the rapture will be a secret. The Bible does not teach that the rapture will be seen by everyone. All we can say for sure is that the rapture will happen.

What is Soul Sleep?

If a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on your door to tell you about their church, there is one doctrine that they probably won’t talk about right away. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists are the two most well known groups in America that believe in soul sleep. The doctrine of soul sleep teaches that when a person dies, the soul, just like the body, loses all awareness and sensation. At death the soul of the person does not cease to exist, nor does it enter into heaven or hell, but it becomes unconscious of anything until the day of resurrection.

This doctrine finds support in the Bible’s use of the word “sleep” to describe death. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, He told His disciples that Lazarus was asleep. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul refers to those who have died when he says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep.” Proponents of soul sleep believe the figure of sleep applies to the deceased’s body and soul.

Other support is found in passages like Psalm 146:4, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” and Psalm 6:5, “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” Since man is more just body, since the dead do not think, and since the dead do not praise God, then the soul the soul must go into an unconscious or unaware state after death.

While this may seem to be reasonable and compelling evidence, the Bible makes several clear statements death which make the doctrine of soul sleep impossible. When Jesus taught about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 He plainly taught that when a person dies he immediately enters into his conscious reward. There is no delay between death and awareness. If the soul has no awareness, then the rich man could not wake up in hell. He would be aware of nothing until the resurrection. If the rich man awoke at the resurrection, Abraham was a liar when he said that the man’s brothers could read the Old Testament and thus be saved from hell. What Jesus describes is immediate, conscious awareness of the afterlife.

The book of Revelation tells of martyrs at the throne of God pleading for the punishment of their tormentors. They are clearly conscious, clearly communicating with God and clearly in heaven between their death and the resurrection. Why would they be asking God how long until He would judge their persecutors if they had been resurrected and were at the judgment the same time as their murderers?

The Bible uses sleep as a figurative term to describe the apparent condition of the dead. Sleep is not intended to describe the condition or awareness of the soul. The poetic passages of Psalms and Ecclesiastes that refer to the silence of the dead are speaking of the inability of the deceased to do any thing upon this earth. Soul sleep is not a Biblical doctrine, but a false teaching which denies the clear truths of the Bible about death, judgment and the afterlife.

Will children be raptured?

The doctrine of the rapture is believed by many Christians, including many of the most popular preachers on television and radio. Despite false teachers who insist on predicting the date of something the Bible specifically says cannot be predicted (Matthew 25:13), the rapture is a Biblical idea. The rapture is a coming event where Jesus takes all believers off the earth. When the rapture happens, all the redeemed, living and dead, will be taken from the earth directly to heaven. One question raised about the rapture concerns the fate of infants and children. Will they be taken or left behind? This is a particularly important question for those who believe the rapture will take place before the Tribulation, a seven year period of great turmoil and suffering on the earth.

The Bible does not say anything about the age of those of who will be raptured. Scripture says those in Christ will be taken up to be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) All children who believe and are saved will be raptured. What about those too young to believe the gospel? Because the Bible does not say anything about the fate of those too young to believe, great care must be taken in giving an answer. Dogmatic certainty must be avoided.

The argument for the rapture of young children is based upon the idea of childhood innocence. The teaching that babies who die go to heaven is based upon a concept of innocence. Innocence, in this context, does not mean young children do not sin. Innocence does not teach that young children were not born under the curse of Adam. Instead, because a child is unable to understand and respond to the gospel God views that child as innocent until she comes to a point of being able to reject the gospel. This is often called the age of accountability. This teaching is based upon passages like Deuteronomy 1:39 which says, “your children . . . had no knowledge between good and evil” and Jeremiah 19:4 which describes children as “innocent”. If these innocent ones go to heaven, why would they not be raptured when Jesus returns?

The rapture of the church and the death of a child are different in one significant area. Missing the rapture does not eliminate the opportunity to be saved. Those who live through the Tribulation will have opportunity to repent and believe Jesus. Those who die in infancy never have this chance. The only clear statement about the identity of those raptured is that those who are in Christ will be caught up to meet Him. Children, though protected by God, are not yet in Christ. This author’s opinion is that infants and unsaved children will not be taken in the rapture, but many of these children will have opportunity to believe Jesus before He establishes His kingdom.

Ultimately no definite answer can be given. Regardless of whether young children are raptured or left, we can be confident that God’s actions are always right. “All His ways are just.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Is Weird Weather a Sign of the End?

The second coming of Jesus will be preceded by seven years of catastrophe. The seven year tribulation will begin with the rise of a powerful leader who will consolidate world power into his hands and require everyone to worship him. During the seven years of tribulation the world will be rocked with earthquakes, wars, famines, plagues, darkness, demonic assault and Divine judgment. The earth will reel under the catastrophes of that time. Many people are interested in knowing when these things will begin. Many turn to the Bible looking for clues to know when the Great Tribulation is approaching. Some say changing weather patterns is evidence Jesus is about to return. Is an increase of extraordinary weather events a precursor to the Great Tribulation?

Many passages in the Bible describe events on earth during the tribulation, including Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, Joel 2 and most of the book of Revelation. These passages all describe events after the tribulation has begun. None of them give specifics about the physical conditions of the world just before the tribulation except to say that the world will endure many troubles in the time between Jesus’ earthly life and the tribulation.

The Bible makes no statement about an increase of unusual weather events before the tribulation. The Bible is silent on the world’s weather before the tribulation. Scripture does promise in Genesis 8:22 that normal seasonal cycles will continue until the very end. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

The book of Revelation reveals that the events of the tribulation are supernatural in origin. A gradual increase in natural disasters is not required to accommodate the horrendous catastrophes of the tribulation. An upswing in weird weather is not an indicator the tribulation is about to begin.

The only warning of the beginning of the tribulation will be the rapture of Christians. When all Christians are taken out of the world then the antichrist will rise to power and the worldwide catastrophes will begin, but then it will be too late for many. The Christian is not to concern himself with trying to figure out when Jesus will return, but is to live in his life in faithfulness and service he will be ready whenever the Lord comes for His people. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” ( 1Thessalonians 5:2-3, 6)

What is the Mark of the Beast?

The mark of the beast is a favorite theme of prophecy enthusiasts. Speculation about the mark is rampant. Popular candidates for the mark of the beast include retail bar codes, credit cards, tattoos, RFID chips and worshiping on Sunday. The mark of the beast is discussed in Revelation 13 and mentioned again in Revelation 14.

The mark of the beast is a mark that everyone who worships the Antichrist will receive in their right hands or in their foreheads. Those who refuse to worship the Antichrist will not receive the identifying symbol. The mark of the beast is not received voluntarily. It will be required for any commercial transaction so those without the mark will be unable to buy or sell anything.

Imagine a worldwide government requires a specific form of identification for any commercial transaction. When people go to their local government office to receive the ID they must worship an image of the Antichrist before they will be given the required token. Any who refuse to worship the Antichrist will be denied the mark. This scenario is probably not be the way it will play out but the government of the Antichrist will in some way require all people to worship the Antichrist before they receive the mark of the beast.

The mark of the beast will be associated with the name and the number of the name of the Antichrist. Revelation 13:18 says the number of the Antichrist is six hundred sixty-six. The mark of the beast will bear some kind of direct relationship to 666, possibly it will be the number itself or in some way will include the number.

Will this mark be a tattoo, an embedded chip, a permanent sticker, a bioluminescent injection or some unimagined technological innovation? We don’t know. The Bible gives no other details about the nature of this mark because the technology used to give the mark of the beast is not important.

The most important aspect of the mark of the beast is its relationship to the worship of the Antichrist. All those alive when the Antichrist reigns will be divided into two clearly defined groups of people. The minority group will be those who trust Jesus for salvation and refuse to worship the Antichrist. They will not refuse the mark itself. They will refuse the worship of the Antichrist required to receive the mark. Because they refuse to worship the great world leader they will be sentenced to death and forbidden the mark of the beast.

The majority of mankind will receive the mark. They will reject Jesus and instead offer their worship to the Antichrist. They then will be allowed to buy and sell, but the Bible warns that all who receive the mark of the beast will suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire. (Revelation 14:9-11) Just to be clear, they will not be condemned by God because they have received the mark of the beast. They will be condemned by God because they rejected Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The evidence of their rejection of Jesus is their willingness to worship to Antichrist.

The mark of the beast will only appear in the second half of the Tribulation after the Antichrist has risen to power. It will be visible proof that a person has worshiped the Antichrist. The mark of the beast will be the clear dividing line between those who follow Jesus and those who reject Him. Only the saved will refuse the mark of the Antichrist because their allegiance is given to Jesus alone.

Who are the 144,000?

You might know someone who claims to be one of the 144,000. Probably you have met someone who claims to know who the 144,000 are and how to become part of their number. Are the 144,000 found in the Bible? Who are they? What will happen to them? Can you become one of their number?

The 144,000 are mentioned in the book of Revelation and can be found in two chapters- chapter 7 and chapter 14. The Bible does not give many particulars about this group. The book of Revelation does not give the least hint that a person can do anything to become part of their number.

In Revelation 7 the 144,000 are described as the servants of God with a seal on their foreheads that indicates they are His and protected by Him from the tribulations about to come upon the world. They are called the 144,000 because that is the exact number of individuals sealed unto God in this way. “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” (Revelation 7:4) These servants of God are of the descendants of Israel. Twelve thousand will be chosen from each one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Only biological descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be in this group.

Revelation 14 adds a few more details to their description. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” The one hundred forty-four thousand are pure Jewish men who have devoted themselves to God. They are marked out by God and are the first ones in the tribulation to trust Jesus for salvation. They are saved, sealed by God and sent out serve Him.

This group of men live completely dedicated to God. Contrary to how some present them, they men do not earn their place by their holiness. They are first chosen and sealed by God. Following their selection they then live Godly lives in a very wicked, dangerous time.

The selection of these men takes place during the time of the tribulation. No one today can claim to be part of this group. Only after the rapture of the church and the rise of the anti-Christ will God choose these men.

The brotherhood of 144,000 men does not receive a special place in the highest heaven that has been reserved for the very best. They are servants chosen by God to minister for Him during the tribulation. The 144,000 will remain faithful to Jesus throughout the tribulation. At the end of the tribulation they will stand on Mt. Zion with Jesus at His return. They will serve Jesus during His conquest over the armies of the antichrist and His establishment of the millennial kingdom.

What is the Battle of Armageddon?

Despite the fascination Armageddon holds for many people it is only mentioned by this name once in the Bible, Revelation 16:16. “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” The book of Joel calls this same pace “the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14) because it is where God begins His final judgment on living humanity for their continual rebellion against Him.

The Battle of Armageddon is the great final battle between rebellious humanity and Jesus. The stage is set for the Battle of Armageddon by the rebellion of rulers in the antichrists empire who gather together in war against the him. The armies of the antchrist and the armies of the rebel kings end up Palestine. The Bible specifically says God orchestrated world events to draw all these forces together in the valley of Megiddo as the place where He would execute His judgment upon them. As these two great armies (probably the majority of the fighting forces in the world) face off, Jesus descends from Heaven to the Mt. of Olives. The armies of the world turn against Jesus, allying themselves together in their great hatred for Jesus. The armies of mankind meet the armies of God in battle at the valley of Megiddo.

The Battle of Armageddon does not appear to be a protracted war. It is the end a brief war between the antichrist and other nations of the world. The slaughter during the battle will be great but all one sided. The armies of rebellious mankind will be completely destroyed. Jesus will send a flesh eating plague on the armies attacking him. Those not killed by the plague will be confused by the Lord and will begin to fight and kill their own comrades. The antichrist and the false prophet will be captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire. The remaining enemy combatants will be killed by the word of Jesus ending the battle of Armageddon and establishing Jesus’ worldwide kingdom.

Though it comes at the end of a world war, the Battle of Armageddon is a not a great world war in which the armies of men gather together against one another and wreak havoc upon the earth. This battle of Armageddon is the final act of rebellion by men who have completely reject Jesus as God and Savior. The men in this battle will be given over to their rebellion against God and even the sight of Jesus returning to earth in His glory accompanied by a massive army of saints will not sway their hearts to believe.

What is the rapture?

In recent years the rapture has been brought to popular attention through the Left Behind series of books and movies. The rapture is a doctrine that has caught the public’s attention time and time again since the mid-1800’s. Though some opponents claim the rapture is a recent theological development, church history reveals the rapture was believed and taught very early in the second century just decades after the death of John, the last living apostle.

The rapture is the event when Jesus resurrects the bodies of believers who have passed away and carries off the earth all living believers. The rapture is the next event of world history that has been foretold in Bible prophecy. When the rapture happens every Christian on the earth will suddenly be gone. Some teach that the rapture will take place in waves, with faithful Christians going up at the beginning and others at later times during the Tribulation depending on how faithful they have been. The Bible gives no hint of a partial rapture. In every place it discusses the catching away of Christians the promises includes all believers. None of God’s children will be left behind. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together”. All living believers will be caught up with the Lord when He comes for His church. This is indeed a great comfort to Christians.

Three passages in the New Testament speak of the rapture: John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15: and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Two of the three passages are intended to give comfort to Christians and the third encourages faithfulness in Christian service. As a result, many questions about the rapture cannot be answered from direct Biblical teaching, Those who think about the rapture make many deductions based on other Bible doctrines and logical reasoning. When describing the rapture, great care needs to be taken to separate deduction and speculation from Biblical teaching.

The Bible describes the rapture as taking place with the shout of an archangel and the sound of an angelic trumpet. Jesus will descend from heaven into the earth’s atmosphere, but He will not descend all the way to the earth. All believers, living and dead, will then ascend into the air to be united with Jesus. At the rapture, all the saved will be transformed. Their physical bodies will be replaced with glorified, spiritual bodies. The change will happen more quickly than the eye can see. The raptured saints will then be taken into heaven and begin to enjoy eternal joy with the Lord.

Will the end times judgments be like Noah’s flood but harsher?

The return of Jesus will be preceded by a seven year period of time called the Tribulation. The book of Revelation gives significant detail about the events of that time. The tribulation is a time of God’s judgment on the world. Aside from the flood, the tribulation is the single greatest outpouring of God’s judgment on mankind for sin. The tribulation is the last great judgment of the nations of the earth. God promised in Gensis 9:11 that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. Of all the horrible things that happen during the tribulation catastrophic flooding is never mentioned. Is the judgment of the tribulation like the judgment of the flood?

During the flood in Noah’s day, God destroyed every breathing thing on the earth except those in the ark. The flood began with 40 days of violent rains and the breaking up of the earths crust to release the fountains of the deep. The waters continued to rise for about six months until they covered the whole world. A little over a year after the beginning of the flood the earth was sufficiently dried and recovered for those on the ark to come out onto a transformed world.

Unlike the flood, the tribulation will last for seven years and none will be escape the horrors of that day. Unlike the flood, the tribulation will be made up of many different kinds of terrors. Some of the terrors will be natural, some economic and some demonic. Some will involve massive war, some will be men persecuting men, all will be the supernatural judgment of God. Revelation describes the catastrophes of the tribulation in such a way that it appears they will be a series of horrible events, some overlapping the others. The judgments of the tribulation will move the world forward to the final world war that will immediately precede the return of Jesus.

The troubles of the tribulation will be varied. They will include horrible famine, extensive war, earthquakes that overthrow mountains and rearrange geography, hundred pound hailstones that fall and fire that destroys a third of the trees and all grass on earth. One third of the ocean will be turned to blood, killing a third of the sea creatures and destroying a third of the ships on the seas. One third of the fresh water will become poisonous killing a third of humanity and later all the water in the oceans and rivers will be turned to blood. Men will be afflicted with horrible sores, burned by extreme heat from the sun and then terrified by the fall of sudden, painful darkness. The destruction will be celestial. The stars will fall from the sky, the sun will be blotted out, the moon turned red as blood, The horrors of that day will be so great men will hide themselves in caves and mountains to try to escape the destruction. God will release demons from their imprisonment to bring torments upon men and to lead massive armies into battle.

Estimates of the death tolls during the tribulation reach as high as 85% of humanity. Like the flood God’s wrath will wreak havoc on the world. As in the days of Noah God’s judgment on sin will be unleashed on humanity. The tribulation will be very different from the flood in its disasters, but most importantly it will be different in its purpose. The tribulation will not just be the execution of God’s wrath. The tribulation will bring about the restoration and repentance of the nation of Israel. The tribulation will prepare the world for the kingdom of Jesus and the final fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. The flood was the second great earthly judgment on mankind, and the tribulation is the last. They share many similarities but have some very important differences that makes the tribulation a unique event in human history.