As Close As We Will Ever Get – Part II :: by Gene Lawley

 Of the Times and Seasons

Paul writes of the transforming miracle in the Rapture: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality “ ( 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). He calls it a mystery and it is, as many of those left behind will be declaring, in wonder—and fear.

He writes of the Rapture event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 through 5:4 in a contextual account that describes its manner of occurrence and gets as close to revealing “the day and the hour” as anyone will ever get—until the actual event takes place. Most often, it seems, we read and quote 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, perhaps adding verse 18 to finish the chapter, then read no more of the context.

But there are no chapter breaks in the original language that Paul used, and when one reads the passage straight through into chapter 5, there is a continuity of thought that reveals much about the timing of the Rapture that seems to have been missed—at least in my own past observations.

Here is the passage, to verse 4 of chapter 5: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”

As Close as We Can Ever Get

Note the continuity of the subject, now dealing with when this event will occur. First, he indicates that these believers, and now those of this day, are fully aware of the “times and seasons” of the Rapture. World events are clearly indicative of that period just before the Lord’s return. Then, he says the believers know “perfectly” that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night—the uncertainty of the exact moment during the “times and seasons”.

The next verse is crucial, for it pinpoints an event that will unleash the judgment of God upon the earth. In the continuity of the text, he writes, “For when they say “Peace and safety”, then sudden destruction comes upon them…”

Like a swirling vortex, sucking its victims down one final plunge into oblivion, events of the world seem to be drawn into a central topic of “peace in the Middle East”, specifically between the Palestinians and Israel. My Bible search did not find any other use of the term “Peace and safety” that Paul used. The only one that seems to deal directly with the current situation is that of Daniel 9:27, where Daniel writes, “Then he [the one who is of the people who destroys the Holy City] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [seven years]…” [Emphasis mine]

The two “peace agreement” events have to do with Israel and its neighbors, thus a strong likelihood that they speak of the same thing. The “confirming of a covenant with many” likely will be fulfilled in the context of the multi-nation votes of the United Nations Security Council, thus it is confirmed “with many”. It will include, no doubt, a provision that allows Israel to rebuild its temple on the Temple Mount, for after three and one-half years that named “confirmer” will set himself up in that temple and claim to be God.

Are the “times and seasons” of this event upon us now? Constantly for months we have seen attempts to enter a bid for statehood for the Palestinians to the United Nations, and apparently it was recognized at a lower level in the UN, not the Security Council, last September, 2012.

Statehood for Palestine is inseparably linked to the peace agreement issue with Israel and Israel is not willing to give up the areas of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, which are demanded by the Palestinians. In the strong urge for peace, however, Israel may be wavering on the issue. Two events that could impact the situation, and may well do so, are Iran’s threat of nuclear prominence and Israel’s response, and Israel’s increasingly enraged neighbors who cannot contain their anger any longer and it overflows into open warfare of the Psalm 83 description. In 1 Thessa- lonians 5:3 the questions are, “who are the ‘they’ who cry out, “Peace and safety”, and who are the ‘them’ upon whom sudden destruction comes?

As the events of this summer, 2013, unfold, and the ever- lasting hatred of the Muslim world for Israel reaches its boiling point—or perhaps more likely, its boiling over point—when and what will the scenario look like? If the “they” who cry “Peace and safety” are Israel, then it is likely that there will have been a major confrontation between Israel and its surrounding neighbors that results in major destruction of the enemies of Israel, thus that cry is associated with victory for Israel.

Certainly God has promised His hand in the conflict will be on the side of Israel. Isaiah 17:1-2 predicts the total devastation of Syria’s age-old city of Damascus, for it will be reduced to rubble, never to be inhabited again, and Ezekiel 29:12 tells of Egypt’s devastation in which no man will dwell for forty years. Psalm 83 seems to speak of a conflict with Israel’s immediate neighbors, who are hovering on its borders, intending Israel’s elimination from the Middle East.

Another scenario could be that when the Palestinian state-hood bid is accepted and voted favorably, “they”, the Palestinians, may say, “Peace and safety”, and as they proceed to take over their claimed Israeli territories, then sudden destruction comes upon “them”, the Palestinians, as Israel responds with its defensive reactions to the intrusions of its enemies.

The Amplified New Testament merely uses this phrase to describe it: “When people are saying, ‘All is well and secure…’”, which may indicate either of the suggestions.

It is almost a certainty that soon there will be a dramatic transformation of the Middle East landscape, politically. Also, it could turn out as it was a year ago, as well as the three years before then, when the “peace process” was given one more year to work out the details of an agree- ment and have it ready by the next September. Given the urgent desire of the “one world government” faction to make the most of this opportunity to move ahead with their goal, and the Muslim intent to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, it seems the “times and seasons” of all events are coming together soon. Coupled also with the social and moral cup of evil that is filled almost to its brim (known as the United States of America) God’s final wrap-up and world-wide judgment may truly be on the near horizon.

The “peace process” seems to have settled on the month of September each year as its date-line; the Feast of Trumpets comes up each September with its likeness to the Rapture; the rage in the Muslim world at Israel and America con- tinues to boil; and natural disasters and pestilences abound. One day soon all these issues and events will come together in perfect timing by God’s hand, and like a thief in the night, He will make Himself known in great glory!

How close are we to seeing the final wrap-up begin to unfold? A couple of news headlines from May 1-2 are very much of “prime time” content:

“Pope accepts invite to Israel, urges peace talks”

“Netanyahu: Conflict Is Over Israel’s Existence, Not Land”

In regard to the latter headline, it is vividly apparent that it is the truth. In spite of Israel having relinquished territories previously captured in open conflict—Gaza, the Sinai—the result has been only more rocket fire and open hostility. It’s another proof that the Bible’s age-old prophecies are coming to pass, as Psalm 83:3-4 clearly tells us: “For lo, Your enemies roar; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They take shrewd counsel against Your people, and plot against Your hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, so that the name Israel may be remembered no more.”

The Prime Minister is right—the issue is their hate for Israel, not a desire for their land. And their rage is a burning fuse, ever shortening. This may well suggest, too, a relaxing grip by Israel on its firm resistance to any more “land for peace” arrangements.

For the believer, the Apostle Paul had encouraging words to those facing their final days as mortals on earth: “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Revelation 22:20 is an appropriate summation of these things: “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! “