Summary: The imminence of Christ's return has been taken to a point where certain Scriptures are now just ignored. Better to see imminence as a personal thing, which it truly is!
6. WHAT MUST COME BEFORE CHRIST?
From this point on, I am assuming that Paul spoke the truth when he gave the fact of II Thessalonians 2. And that Peter also spoke the truth when he told his people to look for Jesus, though many things were coming first.
Assuming there is no secret rapture, since that rapture is even a secret to Scripture, we must brace ourselves to be looking for other things first.
Imagine for a moment that you are a retiree to be, and you are in your final year. Oh what a difficult year that is. Every day strains by on leaden feet. And there is paperwork. There are arrangements to make. Costs to count. A certain amount of apprehension.
But all this is overshadowed and pushed out of the way by the great moment-to-be. One day you will walk out of that office, that factory, that building of whatever shape or fashion, and you will leave it all behind. You will be free!
See how that works? You are looking for the retirement. That is your hope. But you know just as certainly that other things must come first. You can deal with both truths at the same time.
Or you are a runner. You see the goal line, and it draws you on. But there is sweat and pain and courage that you must inhabit until you cross that line. Your eye is fixed on the goal, your body is still in the turmoil of the race.
These are not the best examples, but they give us a flavor of the Scriptural idea of watching and looking. Part of our watching has led us to the Scriptures, to dig deeper than before, and we have found the passages I have been sharing that indicate things must come first.
Does this take our eyes off Jesus? Does this lull us to sleep? No the race continues. The last year of the job still calls us to report to duty every day. But we know that soon it will be all over. If the events mentioned in the texts do not happen in our lifetime we know that at the very least death will summon us to the place where we shall behold Him. Our eyes are on Jesus the whole time. the ultimate watching is the watching of his face.
Folks, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can behold two mountains, one higher and one lesser, at the same time. We can count to 5 on our way to counting to 10!
Jesus will return!
But the book of Revelation is clear that a whole host of events come first. Why, the entire book of Revelation comes before Jesus does!
Chapters 1-3 come before Jesus does. That is, all of church history. Those seven chapters do not represent seven church ages, by the way. How do I know? The Bible doesn't tell me so, that's how! The Bible simply tells me the condition of seven churches, and as I view church history and look at the condition of the churches today, lo and behold! those seven churches match every imaginable church situation: worldliness, deadness, false teachers, persecution, overcoming...
Chapter 4 is not the rapture, dear sheep of God. I refer to you as sheep now, because just as the sheep who is writing these words to you, I know that you are led astray pretty easily. Someone stands before you and tells you that because John is caught up in chapter 4, therefore the church is caught up too.
And that same person will then tell you that the church is not found in the Book of revelation after that. What he should have said is that the word "church" is not there, but oh! the church is all over that book.
I cover this ground in Caught Up But When but here let me just say how Annoying, with a capital "A", it is to see otherwise solid Bible teachers pass on this poison to God's people.
One thing we do see in chapters 4 and following is a certain time frame, which can be translated simply as three and one half years. This is the Tribulation period foretold by Daniel and others. World chaos and upheaval. Death. Famine. Wars like never before.
All of this before Jesus. Well, look at Matthew 24! When Jesus was asked when he would come He too began listing things that would happen, then stopped and said, "but all these things are merely the beginning of sorrows."
These are not the signs of His coming. Even though some well-meaning scholar wrote that title on the top of Matthew 24 in my Bible, and he probably wrote a book by that name too.