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Unless you have been boycotting the news, you know that there is a self proclaimed prophet who says that the rapture will happen today (May 21, 2011). Because I sometimes blog about my faith in Jesus Christ and my reliance on the Bible for wisdom, I thought I would give you my thoughts about the issue.
It seems to me that people have divided themselves into three groups about this prediction:
Those who believe it.
Those who use it as an opportunity to mock all people of faith.
Those who use it to teach and encourage.
I do not believe that this is a true prophecy for two reasons. First, Jesus himself said “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36. So if Jesus says that He doesn’t know the day or the hour, then I do not believe that a radio preacher from California knows. Second, while numbers are sometimes used figuratively in the Bible, nothing in scripture tells us to become mathematicians and go through elaborate calculations to find some hidden meaning.
If I were to say to you “there is not one thing to eat in my house.” You, knowing me, would understand that I do not mean that literally. What I would mean is that there is nothing BTD beneficial that I am in the mood for. If I were to say “A Krispy Kreme donut has a million calories.” You would know that I meant this great tasting avoid food has way too much fried fat and concentrated sugar to build health.
Bible numbers are similar. I believe most of them should be taken literally. But some numbers have figurative meanings. The number 7 for example represents perfection or completeness. So when Jesus’s disciple asked him, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” and Jesus answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” Jesus was not saying keep count and stop forgiving after the 490th time. He was saying forgive completely and perfectly as you have been completely and perfectly been forgiven by God.
I do not see anything in scripture that teaches us to be preoccupied with numbers, to combine numbers and letters in an elaborate scheme to find hidden meanings, or to multiply and divide them in an effort to find out what God has said he is not going to tell us.
While I believe this is a false prophecy, it nonetheless grieves me that so many people have used it as an opportunity to mock people of faith. All week the news has been full of commentators making jokes about the end of the world. If you take the Bible seriously, the end of the world is no laughing matter. It makes me sad to think that people could be swept along by the ridicule of a false prophet and wind up skeptics and scoffers themselves.
OK I will admit to one moment when I also made a BTD joke about this. I told my family we would have pizza and ice cream for lunch on Saturday before the 6 p.m. deadline.
Overall, however, I find myself in the third category. This false prophecy, gives Christians an opportunity to explain things that are taught in the Bible. I’ve heard people say all week that the word rapture is not in the Bible. Not exactly true. The New Testament was written in Greek. There is a Greek word meaning caught up with force or snatched up. That Greek word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” The Latin translation of that Greek verb was Anglicized into our noun, rapture. What the Bible teaches is that God is patient, not wanting any to perish, and He gives us many opportunities to repent and turn to Him. But there will come a moment in time when the saved will be caught up to be with God and the lost will face eternal judgment.
Jesus encouraged us to use our time on earth wisely, to accept his free gift of salvation, and to pursue holy living. Judgment day is coming. The end of the world is coming. It may come in our lifetime. It may not come for a thousand years. When it comes, it will be sudden, and those who are not ready will be left behind.
Jesus wants us to live every day with the expectation that it could be our last day on earth. If we took that teaching seriously, it would revolutionize our conversations, our daily work, and how we spend our money. It would impact how long we hold grudges, what we think is worth being angry about, and how tightly we hug those we love. Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13
March 21 is the one day that I do not expect the Lord to return, since there has been so much emphasis on it. But perhaps it will be tomorrow, or next week. I am ready. Are you?
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