If you are a regular reader of my articles, you have probably noticed that I have often found myself opposed to many popular, traditional prophetic interpretations within the prophetic community. Honestly, this has never been my objective, as my only desire is for the Scriptures to speak to my heart and for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct my thoughts after the mind of Christ. But surprisingly – at least to me – through many years of diligent study, finding myself opposing popular positions within the prophetic community has often been the result.
My prayer for the reader in this study is that they go into it with as clean of a slate as possible, putting aside any preconceived notions of what they have heard regarding the passages we will be studying, and allow the Word of God, along with the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, to be the last Word on what I believe to be a very important topic.
Declarative Statement and a Question
As an opening declarative statement to this survey, I must confess that the Tribulation certainly seems to be on the prophetic horizon. Of course, as the bride of Christ, we should always expect that the rapture could occur at any moment, just as every generation before us has.
But do we know for sure, or can we know for certain, that this is truly the case and that we should be expecting the rapture solely because we suspect that the Tribulation is so near?
Recently, I have been troubled by the popular notion that the church should know with certainty the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return for His bride. Of course, the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return are relative terms, but within this study, I am speaking of these expressions as being a narrow window of opportunity, not as the generation that sees Israel as a nation in her unknown youthful age.
The rapture in Scripture is equated with a thief in the night; and a thief, worth his weight in salt, never reveals his intended arrival. Our Lord said that no one, including Himself, knows the day or the hour of His return and that the rapture will come at a time we least expect.
Yet many Pastors and Bible prophecy teachers insist that we should know with certainty the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return for His bride.
From my vantage point, I sense a very real conflict within these competing concepts.
Hasn’t the church been watching and waiting for the Lord’s return for almost 2,000 years? It sure has!
So, how can we better understand what we should really believe about all of this?
In this study survey, we are going to analyze many of the Scriptures that are so frequently quoted in support of the notion that we should know with certainty the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return and attempt to evaluate whether these passages corroborate the claims.
Underlined Scripture passages are my own emphasis.
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” – Mark 13:32
I have written extensively on this verse, and my article Mark 13:32 – ‘Neither the Son, But the Father’ encourages the body of Christ to truly believe what our Lord said. Regarding the rapture, no one knows the day or the hour but the Father only.
The Greek word for “hour” is 5610 ὥρα “hora” and means “a time, or period, or hour. Properly, an hour; (figuratively) a finite ‘season’; limited time or opportunity to reach a goal (fulfill a purpose); a divinely pre-set time-period; a limited period to accomplish the Lord’s specific purpose, i.e., ‘the hour’ in which specific characteristics prevail exactly like that for a limited time.”
The Scriptures clearly declare to us that no one knows the day or the divinely established timeframe of the resurrection/rapture of the church.
If this is the case – and Jesus said that it is – then should we really know the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return? Maybe, and in a sense, but only if we are watching and waiting so we will not be taken by surprise when it occurs, just as our Lord has commanded us. He even said as much in His letter to the church at Sardis:
“Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” – Revelation 3:3
“Know” is derived from the Greek word 1097 γινώσκω “ginóskó” and can mean – along with know (through personal experience) or come to know – allow, be aware of, perceive. The actual Greek in Revelation 3:3 for “know” is γνῷς “gnōs,” and its only use is in this verse.
Moreover, the Greek word translated know in Revelation 3:3 is not the same word Jesus used in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 – “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man – instead, this Greek word in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 is οἶδεν“oiden” with the root word 1492 οἶδα “eidó.”
In the context of Revelation 3:3 and our understanding that no one will know the day or the divinely appointed timeframe of the rapture, the proper understanding of this word would be perceive or be aware of because they will not be watching and waiting when this event takes place.
Messiah tells them that “if [they] shalt not watch,” then when Christ returns for His church, He will “come on [them] as a thief,” at a time they shall not “perceive or be aware of.”
Using Messiah’s parabolic analogy found in Luke 12:35-40: If a householder – never knowing when the thief might break in – is watching and waiting, then the thief could never take him by surprise.
How would the householder be aware of the hour the thief would break in? Simply by the very act of being in a constant state of readiness, watching and waiting, just as the church has been watching and waiting for the Lord’s return, at Christ’s command, for 2,000 years — and no signs are given to us whereby they must first occur!
To know – or perceive or be aware of – in this passage, is entirely predicated upon the very act of watching and waiting.
Paul also used the imagery of a thief in 1 Thessalonians 5.
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:1
Could Paul be suggesting that we should know the time and the season of the rapture of the church? No. For in the very next verse, he tells us:
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:2
The very first event that instigates “the day of the Lord” is the rapture.
But Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that they know the chronological order of events – the times and the seasons – that will precede the rapture (general signs, which we will examine later) and those events that will follow the rapture of the church (the wrath of God, Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Second Coming, etc.), and there is no reason that he should write to them about these times and seasons because he had already taught them.
But the timing of the times and seasons, as Jesus said, is uniquely and solely in the Father’s own power.
“And he [Jesus] said unto them [His Disciples], It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” – Acts 1:7
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:3
Question: How long has mankind been crying out for peace and safety or peace and security?
Well, ever since the dispersion of the nations at Babel, I suspect.
Interestingly, the Roman empire in our Lord’s and Paul’s day appeared very cognizant of this concept, as when the empire conquered territory, Rome, at times, seemed somewhat sensitive to the conquered people’s plight. So much so, that even the Jews were allowed to carry on with their religion and Temple worship – so long as they did not rebel against the empire, of course!
But in modern times, there really has been a collective worldwide cry for peace and safety that began in earnest with the League of Nations after World War I. This collective worldwide cry for peace and safety continued with the establishment of the United Nations. Israel has been crying for peace and safety ever since she became a nation in 1948 and was immediately attacked by her surrounding enemies.
In all, the collective worldwide cry for peace and safety, or peace and security, has been heard for over 100 years in the modern era alone!
But for how much longer shall the world cry out for peace and safety until our blessed hope occurs and the day of the Lord commences? We do not know because no one but the Father knows!
So, when it comes to the unknowable day and hour of the rapture, Paul expounds to the church:
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
Why are we “not in darkness, that that day [the event of the rapture that initiates the day of the Lord] should overtake [us] as a thief?”
Because, just as we noted in Revelation 3:3, we are commanded to be in a constant state of readiness, watching and waiting for our Lord’s return for His church, just as every believer before us has for 2,000 years!
Therefore, as Christ taught us to watch and wait, and as Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “watch and be sober,” we await our Lord’s return, just as we are instructed.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first…” – 2 Thessalonians 2:3a
In our article, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 – The Day of Christ and ‘Apostasia’, we put forth an interpretation of the phrase “the apostasia,” translated “a falling away” in the King James Version, as that of the rapture – a physical departure, or a separation, of the church from the earth – an interpretation I have held for many years.
Toward the end of this article, we concluded that a “falling away from the faith” is not a viable contextual definition for apostasia as there is a definite article attached that signifies that this is an event or a definitive period in time that, when witnessed by those who see it, there will be no doubt that it has occurred.
Prior to Paul’s death, Paul spoke to Timothy of “a departure from the faith” – “aphestemi“ – that would occur in the latter times without ever mentioning that there would be “the falling away” – “the apostasia” – that he mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” – 1 Timothy 4:1 (“aphestemi“)
There is no way that false converts falling away from the faith they once professed – which has been happening since the church began and has been increasing ever since – could ever reach the threshold of “the apostasia” event taught by Paul, nor could such a subjective “falling away” ever be gauged to convince anyone that “the falling away” had crescendoed and the event had occurred. “The apostasia” is not a subjective event!
Soon after the above article, I prayed and contemplated what “the apostasia” could be referencing if we were to offer the alternative definition of rebellion/revolt for apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 – A Rebellion Interpretation. I think the reader will find this a fascinating read.
Both Scriptural interpretive scenarios will never occur before the rapture, with a “falling away” from the faith firmly rejected. This verse, therefore, has no bearing on the notion that we can know the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return for His bride.
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
The writer of Hebrews admonishes the believers of his day that they are to assemble themselves together and encourage one another, “so much the more, as [they] see the day approaching.”
The first-century church had been seeing the day approaching; the generations after them had seen the day approaching; and our living generations today have been seeing the day approaching – all together for almost 2,000 years!
This concept goes very well with John’s first epistle, when he said:
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” – 1 John 2:18
The Greek word for “time” is our Greek word for “hour” — “hora.” That is, even in John’s day the believers were said to be in the last divinely appointed timeframe, and the church has been in this “last time” – or last hour – for almost 2,000 years!
Since John’s last time or hour is obviously not related to Christ’s hour regarding the unknown divine timeframe of the rapture, our point here is that though “the day approaching” in Hebrews 10:24-25 is clearly speaking of Christ’s day of the rapture, the fact that the church has collectively witnessed this “day approaching” for 2,000 years nullifies any supposition that this passage is suggesting that anyone should know the general timeframe or season of the Lord’s return for His bride.
We have all been commanded to be watching and waiting as the unknown day approaches.
“He [Jesus] answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” – Matthew 16:2-3
Jesus also said:
“… If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” – Luke 19:42-44
These are the passages, taken together, that many will cite concerning our topic. They say that because the Pharisees and Sadducees, in specific, and the nation of Israel, in general, should have known the signs of the times of Christ’s visitation, that we should know when the rapture is about to occur as well.
We cannot conflate these two ideas with each other for the following two reasons.
- The Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as the entire nation of Israel, should have known the signs of the times of Christ’s visitation as Daniel clearly laid out by the words of Gabriel in the 70 7’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24-26) when Christ would come, as well as the miracles and signs that Messiah displayed to them as the Son of God.
- How is it that Christ’s statements to Israel and the Pharisees regarding His First Advent – with His admonition that they should have known the timing of His visitation and understood He was the Messiah by His miraculous signs – should also be applied to the rapture of the church? How and why have many made this leap? There is no reason to do this as the context of His chastisement is apparent – that of His First Coming only.
“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
In my personal investigative opinion – based on immediate context, general context, target audience, and the structural outline of the Olivet Discourse in Luke’s account – there is no doubt that Luke 21:28 is a Second Coming passage meant to encourage the Jews just before Christ’s coming deliverance for them at the end of the Tribulation.
The very words of this beloved passage of Luke 21:28 proves that this is not a rapture passage. How?
An observation that I failed to mention in Luke 21:28 – Rapture, Second Coming, or Both? was that if Luke 21:28 teaches that “when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads; for your redemption draw nigh,” and we apply this verse to the rapture, then this would negate The Imminency of the Rapture, would it not? Yes, it would. For if we were to be looking for anything to begin to come to pass before our redemption could draw near, then the rapture is no longer imminent as our Lord and His Apostles continually asserted in their teachings!
There are general signs that Jesus and the Apostles have given us that should grow with frequency and intensity as the Tribulation gets closer. But how would anyone ever know when these general signs have reached the prophetic tipping point, when the Father should send His son and the rapture should occur?
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…” – 1 Timothy 4:1
As we have mentioned, the church has been dealing with false converts departing from the faith they once professed since its inception. Even in the first-century church, those who did depart from the faith and somehow managed to stay connected to a local church would invariably give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils driving a spiritual wedge between true believers.
At the same time, Gnosticism and the Nicolaitans were a colossal problem in bringing into the body of Christ seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. These false teachings had as their foundations the mystery religions dating all the way back to Babel and survives today as taught in freemasonry and other secret societies.
Peter, when speaking of the false prophets of old and comparing them to false teachers in the early church, said:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” – 2 Peter 2:1
Paul likewise said of the brethren in Ephesus as he was heading to Jerusalem:
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” – Acts 20:29-30
This sign has been present since the beginning. And even though this sign is certainly gaining in strength as we should expect, we have no way of knowing when this sign will have reached its zenith, and the rapture should occur.
Remember, only the Father has the timing of the rapture in His hands.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” – 2 Timothy 3:1
Paul goes on to list societal characteristics that will pervade not only the world but even the professing church. Just as with the previous sign, we are unable to evaluate anything regarding when the Father will send His Son.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” – 2 Peter 3:3-4
Here is another general sign that has always been with us.
Again, this sign in the last days will certainly increase in frequency and intensity – even within the professing church herself – but to what extent should anyone be able to say that the rapture is near or about to occur because of this general sign?
Here is what I wrote in Countdown to Judgment concerning the conditions of the earth being like those in the days of Noah and Lot just before Christ comes to fetch His bride:
We note [in Genesis 6:13, 26] that “all flesh” was “filled with violence” and “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” in the days of Noah, and that [in Genesis 19:4-5] “all the people” in Sodom demanded Lot to, “Bring them [the angels] out to us, that we many know them [sexually].”
On the one hand – when considering our time and the imminence of the rapture of the church – as bad as it seems to be, we don’t seem to observe the standard of “all” that we see in the days of Noah and Lot. But on the other hand, we know that it is due to the presence of the churches of Christ and the Holy Spirit indwelling all true believers that wickedness hasn’t run its course so that “all” evil won’t dominate society until after the rapture of the church.
When one thinks of the massive worldwide violence and evil imaginations in the hearts of people in Noah’s day and the comprehensive sexual depravity of Sodom in Lot’s day, there does seem to be much room for the world to grow even darker in our day. No doubt the LGBT+ and transgender delusions within the Western world is extremely prevalent – namely in the United States, United Kingdom, most of western Europe, and pushed hard by the leaders of the United Nations – yet there are still many parts of the world that have not been influenced by these depravities to the degree that we have seen in the West.
Yes, there does seem to be ample opportunity for these wicked evils to multiply in our world, but how much more should we expect these specific signs to grow in our day? We just do not know.
When it comes to our Lord’s general signs in the Olivet Discourse – deception, wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution, false teachers and false prophets, lawlessness, love waxing cold, sharing the gospel – all these things have been with us since the beginning of the church age.
And, once again, these signs are to increase in frequency and intensity in the last days, but when should we, based on all these general signs, perceive that the rapture is near or about to occur?
I pray that the answer is becoming apparent to the reader. We can never really know for sure. We have no idea how bad things can get before the Father sends His Son for His bride.
Watching and Waiting Is Not Knowing
Let us consider, once again, what our Lord said about the rapture:
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
“For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
“And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
The Greek word for “time” – as in “ye know not when the time is” – is 2540 καιρός “kairós” and means a measure of time, a fixed and definite time, a decisive epoch waited for, occasion, season of time, and appointed time (similar to our word for hour, “hora.”).
“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour [“hora”] when ye think not.” – Luke 12:40
These statements from our Lord and Savior are not conditional.
Our Lord’s insistence that “[we] know not when the time [of the rapture] is” and that “the Son of man cometh at an hour [divinely appointed timeframe] when [we] think not” could not be clearer or repeated more often in various ways, and I pray that we are wise enough to believe Him!
Our only commands regarding the rapture of the church are to be in a constant state of readiness, prepared, sober, alert, and watching and waiting for our Lord’s return.
My summary concerns as outlined in this article are as follows.
In my personal interpretive evaluation of the Scriptures that we have examined in this article – cited by those who say that we should know the general timeframe or season of the Lord’s return – have been used out of context, misinterpreted, misunderstood, misappropriated and/or misapplied. This does not mean that it is not possible for us to see signs of the coming Tribulation on the prophetic horizon; just that we should not be convinced that we know for a certainty that the rapture must happen when, in fact, no man – not even the Son – knows the day or the hour.
In our day and age, we should continually be reminded that the Luciferian elite’s global agenda is on God’s timeline, not theirs. Let them set their dates, but let us not take to heart those dates when it comes to our watching and waiting for our beloved Bridegroom. God is on His throne!
When it comes to the so-called “high watch days” of the feasts of the LORD for the occurrence of the rapture, I have addressed why I believe this to be a Scripturally unsound concept and an unnecessary diversion for the body of Christ in Rapture Soothsaying and Imminence, Signs, and Feasts – Oh My!
I must honestly confess to the reader that all the hype we hear, year after year after year, insisting that the rapture has no choice but to be near and at the door, really weighs heavy on my spiritual heart.
“Rapture fatigue” and “rapture apathy” – along with deep frustration and heartbreaking discontentment – are often the end results of unrealized hypotheticals that tragically go unmet and unfulfilled because of promises or emotionally charged statements by trusted Pastors and Bible teachers that should have never been made.
If we just watch and wait for our blessed hope, as our Savior commands us, we should never find ourselves reeling from high expectations that may not come about when we think that it must or when the conditions seem to be positioned perfectly for a future event’s timing that we are told we cannot know with any certainty.
In any case, it should always be more than enough for the body of Christ to be very excited with anticipation – just as our brothers and sisters before us have been – in knowing that the rapture could happen at virtually any moment!
Lest anyone think that I have been immune to thinking that we can and should know the general timeframe or the season of the Lord’s return for His church, I have not. In fact, this has been a very recent revelation for me.
I am not expecting the rapture because of any Tribulation signs I may see on the horizon, but because the Lord has commanded me to be watching and waiting for His return. The time certainly seems ripe and ready for our exit out of this God-hating, Christ-rejecting world, yet our God is so patient and does not want any to perish, but to come to repentance and faith in His Son.
Please, Saint, do not allow this teaching to cause any discouragement or consternation within your soul. None of this should steal your joy when it comes to The Imminency of the Rapture. Just because we do not know the day or the hour of our deliverance and departure from this world does not mean that the rapture is not near. I truly believe that we are in the generation that will see the resurrection/rapture of the church. But when?
I do not know, and neither does anyone else. For we do not know for certain – and we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we do know for certain – that the rapture must occur at any precise point in time, and this is all that the overall message of our Lord through His Word is declaring to us.
Our commission is to watch and wait so we will not be taken by surprise when the rapture occurs. Here today and gone tomorrow is a very real possibility, and I look so forward to that day. I know you do, too.
But until then, let us be about our Master’s business of growing the Salvation Kingdom by spreading the life-saving gospel message to a lost and dying world who so urgently needs to hear it.
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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