What Are You Looking For

By Ron Graham

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28. This verse is used by so many folks as a clarion call to the saints that it has become imbedded in our thoughts, but as His redeemed, are we to be looking up for our redemption to draw close to us? What exactly are we looking for? 


I’m always astonished when I hear this verse proclaimed from the mouths of those who claim knowledge of eschatology. Those of us who are the redeemed (the saved, the born again children of God) have no need to be looking up in anticipation of our redemption drawing near. We are already His redeemed. It’s a done deal.


What does redemption mean? The Greek word “apolytrōsis” means a releasing effected by payment of ransom. Our redemption was procured at the cross. Jesus Christ paid the payment for our ransom and we who believe that truth have been redeemed (released, delivered, and liberated. What are you looking for when you look up? What is it you expect to see? “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” Romans 3:24. We are not awaiting our redemption to take place at some point in the future. Our redemption was secured at the point when we first believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.


In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 Jesus’ words traverse time. Jesus lays out future events for His disciples, the fall of Jerusalem, along with the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. These two events occur some forty years after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Then Jesus fast forwards a few thousand years to the last days, the last seven years referred to in our Bibles as the seventieth week of Daniel. Jesus begins by explaining to His disciples the extremely harsh sequence of events which are to unfold during that period of time. He’s clear in pointing out that all this destruction will occur just before He returns. How is it that the Ekklesia of Christ are to be looking up, lifting up their heads in anticipation of Jesus’ return when God’s word plainly states we will be returning with Him? It gives me a stiff neck just thinking about it.


Many Christians see us (Christ’s followers) as having to endure the tribulation period. They get their misunderstanding from the three chapters I mentioned above, Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21. In these chapters Jesus is actually speaking of those who will be left here after He removes His Ekklesia (the called out assembly of saints). There are many obvious references to the Jews being the folks He’s referring to in those verses. Jesus is answering questions posed by four of His disciples about the end of the age, etc. Just as obvious is the fact that Jesus never refers to His Ekklesia in any of those chapters.  


When Jesus changes from the present to the future tense He begins to speak of the things that will appear on earth prior to His return to earth, most of which will be horrible, devastating, and quite frankly mind boggling to those who remain. Those who come to faith during that period of time (Daniel’s Seventieth Week) are the ones who need to be in anticipation of their redemption drawing near. They are not Christ’s Ekklesia. They are the elect of the tribulation period – tribulation saints. Yes, there is a difference.


The Rapture of the Ekklesia is a mysterious doctrine. Those who believe the Rapture is imminent, as I do, hold to the view that it can occur at any moment. We believe that there is nothing that needs to occur prophetically that would hinder or preclude the Rapture from occurring. There is every indication that the Rapture will occur prior to the seventieth week of Daniel. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10. In this verse, as Jesus speaks of the “hour of temptation”, He’s pointing to the entire tribulation week which we read of in Daniel chapter 9. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Daniel 9:24. The seventy “sevens” of Daniel 9:24 are decreed upon Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). This prophecy makes it plain that the seventieth week (the entirety of that tribulation week) is a time of purging and restoration for Israel and Jerusalem, not for the Ekklesia of Christ. We won’t be here to witness those events. Please take note that there’s no mention of splitting the hour of trial in half and Christ removing us in the middle of the hour (seventieth week), or at the end of it for that matter.


Those who become followers of Jesus Christ during the tribulation are not sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Ekklesia is gone, the Rapture has already happened and the people Jesus is talking about here are the tribulation saints. The Holy Spirit will be there with them during that horrible time, but they must endure and keep the faith or they will perish with the rest of the lost; that’s what the end of Matthew chapter 24 and all of chapter 25 is about. Jesus explains to His disciples that the generation that sees all these things come to pass must endure to the end to be saved. “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. Today’s saints are never told to endure to be saved. Mark also confirms this fact in his gospel that the tribulation saints must endure to be saved “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Mark 13:13. We are told in 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter that enduring is a part of contending for the faith, but never are we (the Ekklesia of Christ) told that we must endure all the horrible things that will occur during that seventieth week to be justified/saved. Not so for the tribulation saints – they must endure to be saved.


When we look at the “justified” prior to the Rapture and then look at the “saved” after the Rapture we are looking at two very distinct groups of individuals and two very different types of security. One, those who are justified prior to the Rapture, are securely in God’s hands – can’t lose that security. The others, after the Rapture, are not so secure. The saints, prior to the Rapture, are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God and nothing can break that seal. The tribulation saints have no such sealing. Don’t misunderstand, as John is looking into the future he tells us that he sees innumerable multitudes of tribulation saints who have indeed endured to the end.


God’s free gift of salvation is not a difficult thing to comprehend. He had it fully in mind that He would pay the price for our redemption, and He makes it clear that this was His choice, which was foreordained before he laid the foundation of the earth. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” 1 Peter 1:18-20. God’s intention was not that His Creation would see Him as a mean spirited tyrannical unloving god, but as a loving, gracious and merciful Father to all who would believe. All He asks of His creation is that we take Him at His word and believe on the death, burial, and resurrection of His only begotten Son.


At the end of the tribulation, those saints who have endured are told to look up, and lift up their head as their promised redemption is coming into view. When they look up what will they see? “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke 21:27. But that’s not all. “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” Jude 1:14. The Greek word “myrias” is translated into our English as “ten thousands” but it actually means innumerable multitudes. Who are these innumerable multitudes? They are the resurrected dead in Christ and the Raptured saints returning with Christ at the end of the tribulation. They are those who have been set apart, the righteous consecrated redeemed of God – that’s you and me my brethren.


John saw the redeemed of Christ in Heaven and he watched as they mounted up and joined Jesus as He returned in what is described in our Bibles as His Second Coming. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war...And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Revelation 19:11 & 14. These armies are the Ekklesia of Christ, and they are in Heaven preparing to return with Jesus, we, the saints, are those who are clothed in fine linen, white and clean. “…for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Revelation 19:7-8. Only the wife, the redeemed bride of Christ (the glorified saints), is in view here.


Prior to the tribulation week spoken of by Daniel, the Ekklesia of Christ who is currently standing faithful to Him is in for an incredible experience. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17. We will all be caught up to be with our Lord forever, but we will not be looking up into the clouds waiting for our redemption to draw nigh. “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;” Psalm 107:2. We, the Ekklesia of Christ are His redeemed; perhaps we should start acting like it.


God bless you all,


Ron Graham