“The rapture is so close! It is so close!” This is a direct quote from a 100-year-old WW2 veteran whom I had the privilege of knowing and serving a few years ago. This brave patriot was skin and bones, but his eyes were bright and alive! When he’d walk into the room, it would get brighter! “The rapture is so close!” he would tell me every time I saw him in the clinic. And he was right! And it’s even closer today!
I want this article to be an encouragement to you! There should be no fear and dread! I hope it gives you a sense of excitement and anticipation. The most amazing event since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is about to happen!
- DESCRIPTION OF THE RAPTURE
The Bible clearly teaches that all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, dead and alive, will instantaneously be caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds, in the air! Our mortal bodies will, “in the twinkling of an eye,” be changed! Paul writes, “This mortal must put on immortality.” This perishable will put on the imperishable. This dishonorable will be raised in glory! This weakness raised in power! The natural body will be raised a spiritual body!
Just like John said: “When we see Him we will become like Him. For we will see Him as he is!” (1 John 3:2). Remember the disciples? Locked in an upper room, scared to death that they would be discovered and killed. Suddenly, Jesus is there! He could walk through walls and a locked door! They were terrified, thinking he was a ghost. He said: “Why are you terrified? Look at my hands and my feet. Give me some fish to eat!” (Luke 24:44, paraphrased). When we see him, we will become like Him! We will have bodies like His! Spiritual bodies.
My 6-year-old Grandman and I were talking about heaven one day. “Pa! Do you think we’ll be able to fly?” he asked. “Grandman,” said I. “Do you see Paradise Ridge over there? I think you and I could have a race to the top and be there in the snap of your fingers!” His eyes got big and so did his smile! “It’s going to be good, Grandman! It’s going to be very good!”
We really have no idea what awaits us! As Paul says: “What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor thoughts that have entered the heart of man—all that God has prepared for those who love Him”! (1 Cor. 2:9).
III. OF CLARIFICATION: PREDICTING THE SEASON OF CHRIST’S RETURN
Now, I’d like to give one point of clarification: In today’s main passage I will NOT be predicting the Day of Christ’s return for His church. Remember Harold Camping’s prediction that the rapture would happen on May 21, 2011? I recall driving by a local grocery store and seeing a group of them holding up a banner on the corner predicting May 21. I remember looking at my wife, saying, “Well, we know it won’t be that day!” Jesus said: “Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32). But I am predicting the season! I believe we are in the season of Christ’s return!
- BE DISCERNERS OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES—WE ARE IN THE LAST PART OF THE LAST DAYS
Remember Jesus condemning the Pharisees and Sadducees that they missed the “signs of the times”? (Matt. 16:2-3). He said something like this: You guys are pretty good at predicting the weather: ‘Red Sky at Night: Sailor’s Delight; Red Sky in Morning: Sailor take Warning.’ “You know how to discern the weather, but you can’t discern the Signs of the Times. Hypocrites!” (Luke 12:56). Harsh words! But true words!
Do you think that God wants us today to be discerners of the signs of the times? I think so! This is not just a New Testament desirable quality. It is also in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 12:32 praises the Sons of Issachar, who were “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” Having biblical discernment of what is going on is a very useful trait. Seeing God’s fingerprints and footprints all over the place is very necessary!
Many of us in the Bible prophecy community believe that we are in the last part of the last days! Not only are we seeing End-Times prophecies being fulfilled to the letter, but we are seeing a confluence of last day’s prophecies coming together.
- DOES THE BIBLE TEACH A “RAPTURE”? YES!
But before going any further, I think I need to answer a very basic question: How do we know that there will actually be a rapture of the church? Scripture is very clear on this issue.
There are 3 main passages that mention the rapture in detail, and many others that allude to it. The first of the three passages is:
In John 14:1-3, Jesus says: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
The scene here is the upper room. Satan has entered into Judas, and he has left. The 11 remaining disciples’ world is just about to be devastated. This whole chapter is about how Jesus is the believer’s comfort. Here is Christ, just hours before He will be arrested, tortured and brutally murdered, and here He is comforting His disciples! Listen to what John MacArthur writes about this scene:
“The world of the disciples was about to be shattered; they would be bewildered, confused, and ridden with anxiety because of the events that would soon transpire. Anticipating their devastation, Jesus spoke to comfort their hearts. Instead of the disciples lending support to Jesus in the hours before His cross, He had to support them spiritually as well as emotionally. This reveals His heart of serving love.”
He goes on to say:
“This is one of the passages that refers to the rapture of the saints at the end of the age when Christ returns. The features in this description don’t describe Christ coming to earth with His saints to establish His kingdom (as it does in Rev. 19), but rather taking believers from earth to live in heaven. Since no judgment on the unsaved is described here, this is not the event of His return in glory and power to destroy the wicked. Rather, this describes His coming to gather His own who are alive and raise the bodies of those who have died to take them all to heaven.” –(end quote)
The second passage describing the rapture is 1 Thes. 4:13-18. Paul had planted the Thessalonian church and instructed them well in eschatology (that is, end-times events). They were expecting the imminent return of Jesus for His church! And they were right! His return was imminent. It could have happened in their day. They knew that they would meet the Lord in the clouds, in the air. But now, Grandma and Grandpa who were believers had died. What was going to happen to them? Would they be left behind? Paul, the pastor, comforts his church with the following words:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren (the word ‘uninformed’ is the word we get “agnostic” from— “to not know; to be ignorant of”), about those who are asleep (Christians never die—they sleep! Their spirit or soul or personality instantly goes to be with Jesus— “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”, Paul said. The body goes to the grave. It will awaken in the resurrection), so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
How can you know that you are going to heaven? Paul tells you right here! (If you believe that Jesus Christ died in your place on the cross and rose again 3 days later, you are saved and will get a resurrection body!):
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord (i.e. this is not Paul’s personal opinion), that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Corinthians 15 is the third major passage describing the Rapture—verses 50-52: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (That is, we who are alive [flesh and blood] cannot go directly into heaven, in this form. We have to be changed first.) Behold, I tell you a mystery (a “mystery” is something that was not revealed in the Old Testament but was revealed in the New); we will not all sleep (in other words, not all of us are going to die), but we will 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 imperishable, and we (the living) will be changed.”
Notice, that the Second Coming of Christ has two phases to it: Before the 7-year tribulation, He removes his church from the earth. He rewards Christians for their faithful service to Him at the Bema seat judgment, then the great feast called the banqueting table of the Lamb takes place! While the church is in a state of unimaginable joy, having face-to-face communion with her Lord and with one another, all hell is breaking out on earth during the last 7 years of earth history called Daniel’s 70th week or the 7-year period of tribulation described in Revelation.
At the end of this 7 years, the church returns with Christ dressed in white, riding white horses! Listen to Revelation 19:
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.’”
Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!
In the rapture, Christ returns for His church, which meets him in the clouds, in the air. Only the church sees it. It happens in a split second. At the second coming, Christ returns with his glorified church to destroy Antichrist, the false prophet and their armies—and every eye sees it. And it takes place over a certain period of time. These are two separate events, separated by at least 7 years from each other.
In my opinion, people who are meticulous and exacting Bible expositors—that is, those who believe Jesus who said: “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18) believe in these two separate events: the rapture followed by the second coming.
It’s also my opinion that people who are not as exacting Bible expositors, who rely more on church creeds and church traditions than on holy Scripture, tend to not hold to the rapture of the church.
- “THE RAPTURE IS SO CLOSE!”
Now to the major point of this whole article! Why did my 100-year-old WW2 veteran believe that the rapture is so close to us today?
In Luke 21:25-36, Jesus is in the Temple and has just predicted its destruction. The disciples ask Him when this will happen and what will be the sign of it? He then answers more than they asked by giving signs of His second coming (verses 8-11 and 25-28) with a parenthesis in the middle (verses 12-24) describing the persecution of the early church and the 70 AD destruction of the Temple. We’ll pick up on the latter part of the signs of His coming in verses 25-36:
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves (the final bowl judgment of Revelation 16 is the world’s greatest earthquake, which causes every mountain on earth to flatten. And every island disappears. Remember, islands are mountains in the sea. Can you imagine the Tsunamis that will cover the mainland?), men fainting (the word apopsyche can also mean “dying”) from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (and with the church on white horses, Revelation adds!). But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Why does He say to straighten our backs and look up? Because we are about to meet our Lord in the clouds, in the air! Just as Luke wrote in Acts 1: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven!” (Acts 1:11). This can’t apply to Israel at the end of the 7-year tribulation. When these things begin to take place (that is—verses 8-11, false christs, wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, plaques, famines, terrors and signs in the sky), there are still 7 years of tribulation to go! These are the birth pangs that Jesus is talking about! The redemption that is drawing near must be the rapture of His church!
The final fulfillment of His precious blood, which purchased all of His people for all of time out of the slave market of sin is finally completed. It is finished! No more struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil. We’ve been redeemed!
“Then He told them a parable: ‘Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.’” In other words, ‘the air you are breathing and the ground you are sitting on is less secure, less dependable than the words I just told you!’
There is a final generation, a terminal generation where He won’t push off His return anymore. “This generation will not pass away!” Which generation? That’s the $64 question. And here is where I make my first educated assumption! (And my wife will remind me when we leave what often happens when we assume!) Jesus has already given us the answer two sentences earlier!
“Behold the fig tree!” “The fig tree!” “Behold” is a command! The word means: to look at; to observe; to contemplate. Think about the fig tree! The fig tree was a common symbol for the nation of Israel. Remember how Jesus found a fig tree without fruit and cursed it? It was leafy and green and showed promise, but had no fruit. So it received our Lord’s curse. So was the nation of Israel! They missed their Messiah!
And then Luke goes on: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees.” I love Dr. Luke! He’s writing to us Gentiles, so he throws the Gentile trees in as well! The point is: when you see the leaves coming forth, you know that summer is near. “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near!”
But you say to me: Haven’t these things always been happening (wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, etc.)?
Yes, they have. But there is one difference here. It is the term: “This generation”! Who was Jesus talking to? To Jews in the land of Israel! But it could not have applied to His generation because “all these things” didn’t happen. He is talking about a future generation of Jews in the land of Israel. But in 70 AD, Israel was wiped off the map and the Jews scattered around the world, in fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Suddenly, May 14, 1948 happened. “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons!” (Isaiah 66:8). On May 14, 1948, the nation of Israel was born, after nearly 2,000 years of dispersion around the world—fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy written 2,700 years earlier!
So, this generation of Jews in the Land of Israel will not pass away until all things take place!
So how long is a generation? Well, the Bible is its own best interpreter! Turn with me to Psalm 90:10: “As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years, or if due to strength, 80 years…”
Let’s say that May 14, 1948, begins the prophetic clock ticking for the final generation. Knowing that God doesn’t wish “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), let’s add 80 years to 1948. This gives us the year 2028. But remember that there are still 7 years of tribulation that this final generation of Jews must live through. It is Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27). So we must subtract 7 from 2028, giving us the year 2021.
Brothers and sisters, we believe Scripture teaches that the church will be raptured shortly before the final 7 years. When May 14, 2021, arrives there will be just 7 years left of the 1948 generation, making them 80 years old.
Is this date setting for the return of Jesus Christ? No. I’m not saying that Jesus will return on any particular day. But I am “season setting.” This appears to me that we are in the season of our Lord’s return. Any day now, we could hear the upward call of God. This is why my 100-year-old WW2 patriot brother in Christ said to me continually, “The rapture is so close! It’s so close!” I see patients every week who love Jesus, the majority of whom have that same inner sense that His coming is soon! Doesn’t it make sense that He whispers to His beloved church: “I’m coming—soon!” (John 15:15) “…I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you”).
What does this mean for you and me? “How should we then live?”—to quote the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Dr. Luke gives an answer to that. Jesus said in the very next verse:
“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation (which means the squandering of your money, energy and resources) and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth (during the 7-year period of tribulation). But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
In times of increasing lawlessness, the tendency is to worry a lot. Some take to the bottle. Others pursue pleasure. But Jesus says keep alert, watch for My coming and pray! You will avoid these things this way.
The writer of Hebrews states: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some. But encouraging one another. And all the more as you see the Day drawing near!” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Love one another. Be do-gooders. We’re not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. Fellowship with each other. Partake of the Lord’s table with each other. Pray together. The Day is drawing near!
Two final words:
First, look at 2 Peter 3:3-4 “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” Not too long ago I had a Christian patient mock this eschatology, unwittingly quoting Peter’s passage nearly verbatim! This brother later apologized. But if Christians are fulfilling this, what about unbelievers?
Second, I am confident and sure about everything I have written except for two assumptions I have made. But these are assumptions based upon years of thinking, praying and talking to others about them. So I have put them forth today for your consideration.
First, that the terminal event is the founding of Israel as a nation May 14, 1948. That may not be the event that defines the final generation.
The second assumption is that a generation is 70 to 80 years, as Psalm 90 appears to state. Perhaps a generation is 120 years (Gen. 6:3).
I wrote a somewhat renowned prophecy teacher about this and laid out this same argument, in brief. His response to me was: “Thanks Matt. I know there are differences of opinion, but I think 70-80 years is the most likely answer [for the length of a generation], and God was deliberately vague [regarding which event would kick off the final generation] because He knew people would be trying to figure it out. Yours in Christ.”
I am a fallible man. But one thing we do know is that God wants us to be on the lookout for His soon coming. And it does appear to be so close!
 The Study Bible app. John 14:1-31 footnote.
 Ibid. John 14:2-3 footnote.