What Lies Behind Today’s Siege of Bible Prophecy? :: By Jonathan Brentner

Bible prophecy is under siege today; it’s become the target of abuse from both believers and those outside of Christ. Jan Markell’s article on the Harbinger’s Dailly website, We Are Under Siege Like Never Before, aptly sums up the increasing intensity of attacks on our belief in the pre-Tribulation Rapture, which often overflow to the disparaging of us who cherish this hope.

Over the past few years, I have noticed an underlying current in teachings that deny biblical teaching regarding the Rapture, the seven-year Tribulation, and Jesus’ thousand-year reign. They greatly diminish the magnificence of Jesus’ role in end-time events.

I believe that today’s assault on Bible prophecy tarnishes Jesus’ future glory by:

Focusing Our Hope on an End of Days Event Rather Than Jesus

Pastors who say there’s no such thing as the Rapture of the church or thousand-year reign of Jesus dishonor Him by shifting the hope of the saints away from Jesus to an event that’s remarkably sterile compared with how Scripture describes Christ’s return to earth. Most often than not, it’s a perfunctory wrap-up of history just before the eternal state that may or may not include the Second Coming.

The 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith perfectly sums up this no Rapture view of future things. Yes, it includes Jesus’ Second Coming, but His return becomes anticlimactic against the backdrop, a far-distant occurrence during which time God simultaneously raises both saints and sinners, after which He separates and judges them. Many in this camp say Jesus returned to earth in AD 70 and tell us that the culmination of our hope occurs either with the inauguration of the eternal state or the appearance of the New Jerusalem, which one such pastor stated was “the completion of our redemption.”

Such teaching, which often includes sermons stating that all believers will die someday, contradicts Paul’s emphasis on Jesus’ appearing as central to the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-19, the apostle connects our future resurrection with that of Jesus making them both essential to the Gospel message he sums up in verses 3-11. These two themes run together for the rest of the chapter culminating with our receipt of immortal resurrected bodies when Jesus appears (vv. 47-55). Our future receipt of immortal bodies is the hope of the Gospel proclaimed in the New Testament.

Yes, the Rapture is an event, but it focuses our hope solely upon Jesus alone and exalts Him as our Savior. Our focus thus becomes that of eagerly awaiting “a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body…” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Biblically sound teaching makes Jesus and His appearing the focal point of our hope of glory.

Making the Church Our Hope Rather Than Jesus

In several of my conversations with those who make the church the recipient of God’s kingdom promises in place of Israel, I have often heard words exalting the church rather than the Lord Jesus. At first, I did not attribute any particular significance to these statements, but now I see them as symptomatic of an undue exaltation of the church.

Those who say the church is now God’s kingdom in fulfillment of prophetic passages such as Psalm 2 or Revelation 20:1-10 make a remarkably similar error as do those who say the church alone will rule over the world before Jesus returns to it. They diminish Jesus’ importance in the culmination of human history and thus shift the focus away from Him to the church.

The Bible says that when Jesus rules over planet Earth, things such as wars, ethnic strife, extreme wickedness, deception, lawlessness, and widespread corruption will not exist. The prevalence of these things in our day signifies that Jesus’ reign over the nations, including a restored Israel, awaits a future day. Is it not demeaning to Jesus to say He now fulfills the words of Psalm 2 when these things characterize our world? Yes, it is.

Only Jesus can initiate this future time of righteousness and peace on planet Earth. This is not our current experience, nor is it something a woefully divided and worldly church could ever accomplish in the future.

Those who make the church the replacement kingdom for Israel, either now or in the future, exchange the glorious wonders of how the Bible describes this coming realm for the decay we now experience today in our world.

Elevating Human Wisdom Over the Words Jesus Inspired

This leads me to a third reason why I say that the current siege of Bible prophecy tarnishes Jesus’ glory.

Those who say the church is now God’s kingdom, or an outpost of it, contradict the words that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. There, he identifies “the kingdom of God” as our future inheritance rather than our current possession (1 Corinthians 15:50).

Yes, of course, God transfers us to His spiritual domain at the moment of our redemption (Colossians 1:13-14). However, the Bible tells us that we are also heirs to a yet future and physical manifestation of it (compare Ephesians 1:11-14 with 1 Corinthians 15:50). James 2:5 confirms that, as believers, we are heirs to a kingdom:

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

The Apostle Paul wrote that we are “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). The New Testament never identifies the church as God’s kingdom, nor does it say that we are “co-possessors” of Jesus’ realm at this present time. Words matter!

The words of 1 Corinthians 15:50 provide additional insight regarding our inheritance of the kingdom:

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

In this verse, Paul says it’s impossible for us to receive our inheritance of the “kingdom of God” in our current state. The apostle’s words negate all teachings that claim the church is God’s kingdom either in its current or future state. Such things cannot happen while we exist in “flesh and blood” bodies.

The good news is that Jesus will make us fit for His kingdom when he appears, raises the dead “in Christ” with “imperishable bodies,” and also gives those of us who are alive at the time immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Philippians 3:20-21). The Rapture is most definitely not a tertiary matter but one of utmost biblical importance because it’s when Jesus will make us fit for ruling with Him in the glorious kingdom that’s coming.

After responding to His disciples’ questions about the end of the age and His return, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Those who disparage Bible prophecy should take careful note that after teaching His disciples about the signs of the end times, the antichrist’s future defilement of a Jewish temple, His spectacular return to earth after the Tribulation period, and the “fig tree” as an illustration of Israel’s rebirth, Jesus asserted the absolute permanence of His “words.”

My chief complaint with teachings that either claim there is no such thing as a Rapture and assert that the church is now God’s kingdom rather than Israel is this: Either willfully or perhaps unwittingly, those that teach such things tarnish the glorious name of our Lord by pushing our expectation of meeting Jesus in the air to a spectacularly dull wrap-up of human history that disregards all that the book of Revelation teaches until the last couple of chapters (although some claim that its words have reached fulfillment).

The words of Bible prophecy, taken at face value, exalt the Lord Jesus as they focus our hope solely on Him (not the church) and affirm the spectacular nature of His Second Coming and wonders of His future kingdom, which will exceed our most fanciful thoughts of what it might be.

In Hereafter, It’s Far Better Than You Can Imagine, Terry James and I describe the future glory that awaits us as believers, beginning with Jesus’ appearing to take us home. From beginning to end, we emphasize the jubilant joy that awaits us in Heaven.

The way in which the Bible exalts Jesus in its portrayal of future events radically differs from what’s taught in many churches. In addition, the silence regarding Heaven deprives believers from anticipating the wonders that lie ahead for us, which are truly far better than we can imagine in our most fanciful thoughts.


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