I actually thought the rapture was occurring. I heard a trumpet blaring, and for a brief moment I felt as though something was pulling me upward.
This happened when I was in college, over 40 year ago, during a time when I had been reading extensively about the rapture. Late one warm afternoon, I fell asleep at my desk in my dorm room. Suddenly, the sound of a loud trumpet fanfare awoke me from a deep sleep, and I thought “This is it; the Lord is returning!” After a few seconds, I realized it was the sound of a trumpet warming up for a nearby band rehearsal.
I tell this humorous experience to stress that I have been watching for the Lord’s return for a long time, although not always that intently. After so many decades I do sometimes wonder, “Why do I keep watching? Why do any of us keep looking for Jesus to come and take us home?”
It’s the Signs
Unlike when I was in college, today we see signs of biblical prophecies escalating all around us. The countries of Iran, Russian, and Turkey all have troops in Syria just as Ezekiel 38-39 predicts about an alliance of these same nations in the last days. Just this week the world learned the following:
>Iran is building a military base just eight miles north of Damascus that will soon have missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.
>North Korea has shipped components for chemical weapons to Syria along with building materials for a facility to build these weapons.
>Russia said it would regard any nuclear attack on one of its allies as an attack on Russia. (Could they be thinking that Israel might consider using such weapons against the Iranian base?)
>Putin, the president of Russia, recently boasted of new nuclear capabilities on rockets that will travel several times the speed of sound, rendering our defenses useless.
>Russia has stationed super stealth jets in Syria, perhaps as an added deterrent to Israel attacking the Iranian base.
>A top military leader in Israel stated that a major war between Israel and Iran is likely in 2018.
What do all these things mean? When (not if) Israel attacks this Iranian base, the likelihood of it leading to major conflict appears almost certain.
Could this be the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39? We cannot know for certain. Even if it is a lessor conflict than the one the prophet predicted long ago, will it not almost certainly lead to the bigger war of Ezekiel 38-39 as Iran re-gathers its strength to invade Israel?
Add to the mix the recent Iranian Parliament request for a timetable of one or two years for pulling its troops out of Syria. Is it possible that Iran, along with Russia and Turkey, will strike before then? I believe if Iran’s Parliament enacts such a deadline, it’s likely this coalition will attack before that time.
What Do These Signs Have to Do with the Rapture?
At this point, you may be wondering what these signs have to do with the rapture. Why does the nearness of the Gog-Magog War point to the Lord’s return for His church?
Such a war would signify that the tribulation period is extremely close. Some commentators believe this war happens just before the Great Tribulation, while some hold that it might happen right at its beginning. Either way, the nearness of this war points to the closeness of the seven-year time of God’s wrath upon the earth.
If the tribulation is rapidly approaching, and many signs point to it, then the rapture must be even closer since it is prophesied to happen just before the start of the Great Tribulation.
The growing turmoil in Syria and Iran’s constant threats against Israel are just two of numerous signs that we are living in the days of human history as we know it. If there was ever a time in history when the rapture could happen at any moment, this is it!
The Early Church Watched, Too
Long, long before my experience in college at John Brown University, the earliest followers of Jesus also watched intently for His appearing to take them home. We see it all through the New Testament, as turning to Christ meant waiting eagerly for Him to come (1 Thess.1:9-10; Phil. 3:20-21; Titus 2:11-13).
The Didache, which means “teaching” in the Greek, is a brief document from the early years of the church that provides valuable insight into the anticipation of early believers for the return of Jesus. This document summed up the teaching of the apostles at a time when copies of the New Testament were not available or scarce at best. It provides a summary of what the apostles taught.
Chapter 16 of The Didache says this, “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come.”
These words indicate an immanency regarding the Lord’s appearing, such as would be the case for someone expecting Jesus’ return to occur at any moment. The early saints regarded Jesus’ command in Matthew 24:44 to mean they must watch for His appearing. They had the same expectancy as the New Testament saints.
I admit that after all these years it’s at times difficult to keep up a sense of watchfulness. However, I then consider the signs and I also wonder about Israel’s upcoming seventieth anniversary, the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, and the new peace plan that is coming out soon from the United States.
As I hear about all these things added on to the events in Syria, my sense of eager watchfulness returns. It’s possible Jesus will return for us quite soon!
Jonathan C. Brentner