Groaning in Travail
Vol: 139 Issue: 26 Friday, April 26, 2013
”For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 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 5:2-3)
Before moving along, examine the passage above carefully. There are two references I want you to see. The first is that Paul is speaking of “the Day of the Lord.”
The second is that Paul says the Day of the Lord will come as a “thief in the night”. The Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation Period is clearly described by the Lord Himself.
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)
This is often confused with the Rapture of the Church because of the next verse:
“And He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Once again, examine the verse carefully. Compare it to Paul’s description of the Rapture in 1st Thessalonians 4:16.
The “dead in Christ” rise first, then those who are alive and remain are “caught up” (Latin: rapios; Greek harpazo – both mean “to snatch up” – neither could be translated as ‘gather’).
The Lord’s elect are gathered from the four winds – from one end of heaven to the other – but significantly, NOT snatched from the earth.
So, the Day of the Lord comes as a ‘thief in the night.” What does that mean? It should be obvious. It means the Day of the Lord comes in secret, unexpectedly and without warning. It was the Lord Himself that interpreted the ‘thief in the night’ reference:
“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.” (Luke 12:39)
There is a commercial I saw recently on TV that illustrated the same point, so it is neither a religious point, nor is it obscure. You needn’t be a theologian to ‘get’ it.
It depicts criminals calling potential victims and telling them precisely when they intend to rob his home. The illustration was used to show why you needed protection – because thieves don’t offer their victims any warning.
But they DO leave signs, if you know what to look for. Thieves always ‘case’ the neighborhood or the house or business they intend to rob. Just like terrorists tend to ‘case’ the targets they intend to attack.
The Department of Homeland Security tells citizens to watch for such signs and to report them. Local police are always on the lookout for signs of criminal activity.
None of the signs mean that the act itself has necessarily occurred – they just indicate that it is possible.
That is why the Bible consistently makes two points concerning the Rapture – points often ignored by those seeking to impose their own understanding instead.
The Rapture will be in secret. And it will come at a time when it is least expected.
Obviously, there are those that expect the Rapture any day. I am among them. So where does the “unexpected” fit in?
Jesus said that nobody could calculate the day or the hour, but that we could know when it is near, “even at the doors.” We would know that it was near by the signs – but as we’ve seen, signs are not the same as certainty.
You can’t arrest a guy for looking like a burglar or acting like a burglar. Until he burgles, it is possible that you could be wrong. But knowing the signs means that you can be prepared, just in case you’re right.
The Japan earthquake has renewed the argument about whether or not earthquakes are increasing, as the Lord said they would as a sign of His Second Coming.
(The Olivet Discourse is in reply to the question, “what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?” The reference is to the end of world government and the start of the Millennial Reign, not the end of the world’s existence.)
Every time there is a major earthquake, it rekindles the debate anew. Are earthquakes actually increasing? According to seismologists, if there wasn’t a discernible increase before, there is now.
“A seismology research fellow at the University of Melbourne, Gary Gibson, said the world averages one magnitude 8 quake a year, but the rate was inconsistent. The 1980s and 1990s had far fewer large quakes than average, for example.
”There is more variation than you would expect from a random occurrence of earthquakes, and we really don’t have a mechanism to describe why that is the case,” Dr Gibson said. ”But there is no question that the last two years have been very active and well above average.”
I beg to differ with Dr. Gibson, but only by about four years – the record-breaking began in earnest in 2005, but it takes time for skeptics to become believers.
In April of last year, we published a report entitled “2010 – The Year of Living Dangerously” that noted the following:
“On Monday, a 7.1 earthquake rocked southern Qinghai, China, killing more than six hundred and injuring more than 10,000. Another 300 remain missing.
This is the 24th earthquake measuring at least 6.5 since January 1st. So far, earthquake activity in the first four months of this year have claimed as many as 300,000 people. Over the same period last year, there were just twelve.”
Earthquakes are always followed by aftershocks, including a main aftershock that is generally one order of magnitude lower than the initial quake. In the case of a M9.0, the aftershock could be as strong as an M8.0 – more than enough to trigger another tsunami.
Jesus warned that there would come wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences and so on. He warned that, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:8)
The signs of the times are all around us and they are scary. They are scary even to saved Christians who know the signs mean the Day of the Lord is at hand.
They are even scary to Christians who believe the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins.
There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the Church Age will escape bad things in the last days — just that it will be removed before the beginning of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
“Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” (Proverbs 3:25-26)
Notice there are two fears being addressed here. “Being afraid” and “sudden fear.” It is one thing to respect the risks attached as ‘sudden fear’ — it is another to allow it to rule your life.
“Sudden fear” is what comes to us all. It is this concept of ‘sudden fear’ that keeps us from being reckless. It is what keeps you from trying to beat oncoming traffic.
After all, you’re saved. You’re a Christian. Nothing can happen to you without God’s permission. So why don’t you just jump out in front of that oncoming car?
(The ‘sudden fear’ is that God may have granted that permission without telling you.)
It is ok to be afraid in the ‘sudden’ sense — but not to be afraid OF the fear. We live in the world, but we are not OF it. Sudden fear is an understanding of the situation and a respect for its gravity.
Being afraid of sudden fear is what happens when one forgets to place one’s confidence in the Lord.
This is more than just a pretty platitude. It is a bedrock principle of doctrine. It is the Source of that “peace that surpasseth all understanding.”
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
If we are where I suspect we are on the timeline, we will need that peace in the days ahead. Unless the Lord comes first.
Because given the preponderance of signs, THAT is an entirely plausible scenario.
Note: This brief was originally published March 14, 2011. In 2013, there is still nothing to be afraid of if you are a child of the King; but there certainly is a lot to think about.
Today’s Featured Commentary: On Excusing Evil