A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The Fall Feasts are over for another year, Harold Camping’s latest date has passed, and the Comet Elenin has come and gone with no discernible effect. Hours of YouTube presentations, some very skilfully done, have been proven wrong and still no rapture.
When the rapture didn’t happen on Rosh Hashanah I got eMails from people expressing everything from disappointment to anger to a loss of hope altogether. One message summed up the feeling of most by saying, “I guess I’ll just go into hibernation until next year.”
These people all had their hearts set on the rapture coming on a particular date and when it didn’t they lost hope, at least for another year. By pinning their expectations on that one day they eliminated all other days and came away discouraged.
The only Scripture I’ve seen used to justify the Rosh Hashanah rapture is the phrase “no one knows the day or hour” from Matt. 24-25. Rosh Hashanah comes on a new moon, when it’s barely visible even on a clear night, so in Biblical times its actual arrival was very difficult to predict in advance. Over time it apparently became known as the feast where no one knows the day or hour.
Some folks equate this phrase with the rapture, but as we’ll see it’s only used four times in the Bible, and all of them are in reference to the 2nd Coming, not the rapture. It turns out that almost everyone who advocated a Rosh Hashanah rapture did so because they heard about it from someone else, not because of any legitimate scholarship on their part.
I’d like to suggest a different approach and that is to follow the directions Paul gave us in Acts 17:11. Complimenting the Bereans, he said they received his message with all readiness of heart but searched the scriptures daily to see if the things he said were true.
The Bereans neither accepted nor rejected Paul’s message out of hand but listened with an open mind and then studied the Scripture to see if God’s word confirmed what Paul was saying before making up their minds.
This means two things. First, any Bible teacher’s message must conform to Scripture, and second, it’s up to us to make sure it does before accepting it. We shouldn’t reject any reasonable teaching out of hand, but neither should we accept any teaching until we’ve personally confirmed that it’s consistent with God’s word. And that doesn’t just mean we see if they’re really quoting the Bible. We also have to make sure the verses they’re using actually apply in the way they’re suggesting.
The point of this is to remind us that whenever we hear a Bible teaching we’re to keep an open mind about it, but search the Scriptures ourselves to see if it’s consistent with God’s word before deciding whether to accept or reject it. It’s a great way to learn what the Bible really says.
For Example …
I’ve received a number of questions lately about another Rapture teaching, one I posted a couple of years ago. Since about mid year people have been asking if I still believe it’s likely that the rapture will take place in 2011.
In responding to these questions, I’ve resisted every effort to pin me down to a specific date for the rapture or other related end times events. I’ve also refused to confirm the methods other people have used to arrive at a specific date based on my opinion. I’ve always maintained that it isn’t possible for anyone on Earth to know the specific date of the rapture in advance. God’s word only says that it will precede the time of His Wrath (1 Thes. 1:10) and that it shouldn’t take us by surprise when it happens (1 Thes. 5:4).
And let me repeat that I’m convinced God knows the exact date of the rapture, just as He knows the number of believers the Church will contain. But He hasn’t chosen to reveal either to us.
But still the questions come, and it finally dawned on me that many of the people who write in aren’t doing their own research but are relying on mine. They’re checking to see if I still believe it so they’ll know whether or not they should too.
Obviously I wouldn’t have posted my opinion if I didn’t think it had merit, and if I had subsequently found an obvious flaw in it I would have said so by now. But that’s not the point. The point is that for the most part people aren’t obeying Acts 17:11. Instead they believe what other people tell them to believe. Of course, this is nothing new. In the days of Christopher Columbus most people believed the Earth was flat. Not because they’d done any research to support their conclusion, but because they heard someone say it was.
So what I’d like to do is to lay out the case I made for the likelihood of a 2011 rapture again and encourage you to do your own homework and come to your own conclusion. Then whatever you believe will be based on your own study, not someone else’s. Remember, in Acts 17:11 Paul said not to believe anything I tell you until you’ve checked it out for yourself. Are we ready?
Signs Of The Times
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” (Matt. 24:15, 21)
Some of the disciples had asked the Lord, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the End of the Age?” (Matt. 24:3). After giving them a general overview of the end times (Matt. 24:4-14) His first specific answer is in Matt. 24:15-21. He said that a time known as the Great Tribulation would begin when the people in Israel see the abomination that causes desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel. It’s a reference to Daniel 9:27 which says the abomination would take place in the middle of a seven year period scholars call Daniel’s 70th Week. It’s the last 7 years before the end of the age. Paul described this abomination as a man we call the anti-Christ standing in the Temple claiming to be God (2 Thes. 2:4)
From Daniel 12:7, Rev. 11:2, Rev. 12:6 and others we can tell that the Great Tribulation will be 3 ½ years long, confirming that it’s the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week. The Lord said His 2nd Coming would take place after the end of the Great Tribulation but that no one would know the day or hour of His coming in advance. Let me explain.
In effect, Daniel 12:11-12 says there will be two short periods of time between the end of the Great Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennium. One will be 30 days long and the other 45 days for a total of 75 days. The Lord will come back to judge the tribulation survivors and establish the Kingdom during that time. But in Matt. 24:36, Matt. 24:42-44, Matt. 24:50, and Matt 25:13 he made it clear that the people on Earth would not know the day or hour of His return in advance.
From the sign of the Abomination, we can back into some earlier signs that the Lord only inferred. You see, the Abomination of Desolation couldn’t happen today for several reasons. First, because it has to take place in a Temple in Israel and there hasn’t been one there since 70AD. Therefore the construction of a Temple in Israel would be a preceding sign.
But Israel will have no use for a Temple until they return to their old covenant relationship with God. Paul said they can’t return to God until the Church is gone (Romans 11:25). The departure of the Church will be another specific sign for them. Israel’s subsequent return to God will be the sign that Daniel’s 70th Week has begun.
But even before that, Israel had to exist again as a nation. Ezekiel 37:1-14 is the prophecy of Israel’s modern day rebirth. It was dramatically fulfilled as Jews who resembled walking skeletons came out of the concentration camps of Eastern Europe to resettle their ancient homeland in Israel. Ezekiel’s prophecy says the Lord would first bring them back and then put His Spirit in them. This means their official return to their relationship with Him would happen sometime after their return to the land. Just like Ezekiel said it would happen, Israel has been reborn, but they are not yet in covenant with God, and that’s why so many students of prophecy believe that the rebirth of Israel in 1948 was the first major sign that the end times had begun. None of the other end times prophecies that pertain to Israel could happen before then.
The Terminal Generation
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (Matt. 24:34)
The Greek word translated generation in this verse has been interpreted three ways. The first is that it referred to the people alive in Israel when Jesus was there. The problem is that the events He prophesied, culminating in His 2nd Coming, didn’t happen during their lifetimes so that interpretation can’t be right.
Another possibility is that the word for generation should have been translated race, which is an accepted alternate meaning. Then the verse would read, I tell you the truth, this race will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
But remember the context of the passage is signs of the end. What kind of a sign would it be for the Lord to say the end would come sometime before the Jewish race became extinct? It would be reassuring in the general sense but of no value in the context of the signs they were asking for.
The third possibility is that the Lord was referring to the people who would be alive when the signs of the End of the Age began to appear. I think this is the correct interpretation. That makes Matt. 24:34 read, I tell you the truth, this generation (the generation being born when the first signs appear) will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Notice it doesn’t say all the end times prophecies will be fulfilled in the span of one generation, which is defined as the time between the birth of a man and the birth of his first child. It says they’ll be fulfilled within the lifetimes of those being born at the time of the first sign.
The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; (Psalm 90:10)
I interpret this verse to mean the average life span for man is 70 years with 80 being the exception. This is confirmed in Isaiah 23:15. At that time Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the span of a king’s life.
Data collected by the United Nations in 194 countries and territories between 2005-2010 shows that current average life expectancies range from about 40 years in some African countries to over 80 years in Japan, but the world wide average is 67.2 years. Israel ranks #8 at 80.7 and the US is 36th at 78.3 years. (Source: Wikipedia)
And In Conclusion …
When I put this all together, here’s what I came up with. The end times could not begin until Israel was reborn because the Lord’s specific signs required it. If Israel’s rebirth in 1948 was the first end times sign and if all end times prophecies will be fulfilled within the lifetime of those being born at that time, that would place the 2nd Coming about 70 years after 1948, or 2018. If the last 7 years can’t begin until the church is gone then the likelihood of the rapture occurring in 2011 is very high indeed.
I’ll remind you again as I have before that this is just my opinion. I don’t claim to have any supernatural understanding of this or any other topic. There are some places where I have had to infer things from the context that are not clearly explained, and that’s always risky. I also insist on using average lifespans because that what these passages imply. Never in history has an entire generation of people died at exactly 70 years of age. Therefore Psalm 90:10 has to be giving average and not specific information.
In addition, I haven’t made any allowance for the differences between our calendar and God’s. It was never my intention to pin down a date anyway, but only to suggest a general time. And I did that because the Bible says end times events shouldn’t take us by surprise. Therefore if we find ourselves still here when 2011 comes to an end we’ll be able to take comfort in knowing the rapture is even more an any moment event than ever.
I’ll close by reminding you once again of Paul’s warning not to believe anything I tell you, but to search the scriptures and come to your own conclusion. You’d better hurry though, because if you listen carefully you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 10-29-11