Brian Thomas and his wife Denita founded God1st.org in 2009 and have been coming along side churches to help them teach on various topics including Salvation, Christian Living, Bible Prophecy, the Biblical mandate and Importance of Blessing Israel, Marriage and Family, and Social and Moral Issues among other topics.
Brian has taught at several national prophecy conferences, is a personal friend of mine, and has an almost photographic memory of scripture as it relates to Bible prophecy. He is a great teacher and has the ability to unpack Bible prophecy in a non-sensationalistic and thoroughly Biblical way. He was kind enough to answer some questions relating to Bible prophecy. This post is long, but well worth the read. I have categorized the questions incase you would like to read it in chunks or skip to a specific topic. I guarantee you will learn a lot from this gifted teacher.
How did you become interested in Bible Prophecy?
Well believe it or not, I have had an interest in Bible prophecy from as early as about seven years old. We often hear Bible prophecy teachers point to a particular event in the world or in their life that sparked their interest in this subject, causing them to “see the light”. But I honestly never had such an event. The best answer that I can give when people ask this question is that the Holy Spirit placed the desire for the Lord’s return in my heart at a very early age. So early that I do not recall when the desire began. But one thing that I do remember is a conversation that I had with my cousins as a young boy. I was about ten years old, one was about eight and the other about seven. We were out riding bicycles, doing what most young boys do outside. We came to a stop to take a bit of a rest break and for some reason, Bible prophecy came to mind. I started speaking to them about the 7 year Tribulation that is to come, and several other future prophecy events. When I finally finished speaking after several minutes, they just sat there on their bikes in silence with the “deer in the headlights look”. It was as if I could read their minds saying, “This guy has really lost it!”
So the interest was there from my childhood but in 2007, the Lord began pouring the burden into my heart. My craving for prophecy came like a flood and in 2008, I accepted God’s call to proclaim the message of Bible prophecy to the world.
What impact has the study of prophecy had on your personal walk with the Lord?
It has caused me to live with a sense of urgency and preparedness. When a person truly believes in their heart that Christ could return at any time, it makes one want to always be ready. For example, I may be tempted to be impatient or unkind with my wife over a disagreement. But then I think, “What if Christ returns and finds me in this state?” Of course, my salvation would not be nullified but I think it would really dampen my first face to face meeting with my Lord if He were to return to find me in a sinful state.
It makes me think about the Jewish wedding tradition that Christ alludes to in the scripture. When a Jewish man and woman would become engaged for marriage during the Bible days, the groom would depart from his future bride and return to his father’s house to build a home for them. What the bride didn’t know is when he would return for her. It could be days, weeks, or months so it was critical for her to always be ready. She wanted to make sure that she got her marriage off to a great start by being prepared for him, excited to see him, looking her best, dressed in her finest clothes so that her groom would be pleased to make her his bride. It is important for me that Christ finds me in my best state as well when He returns for His bride, the church.
And lastly, studying prophecy has given me an urgency to reach the lost. So many prophecies are being fulfilled today in our lifetime that the Bible declares would be the final stages just before the return of Christ. Many have not accepted Christ as Savior and therefore will not be ready when He returns. I have a strong burden on my heart to reach as many as possible because I truly believe our Lord will be coming back any day now.
What ministry, event, or project are you working on right now that you are excited about?
I will be speaking at a church in Baltimore, MD in December at their 2nd annual prophecy conference. Wonderful congregation there that I really enjoyed fellowship with on my first visit.
I am in the process of working out a partnership with Blessings of Israel, which is a ministry that provides food and products from the Promised Land of Israel. Our ministry Blessings to Israel emphasizes the importance of supporting God’s chosen people and their significance in Bible prophecy so I think it is a natural fit that I am excited about.
We will be launching a new podcast soon at God1st.org where listeners can find brand new shows related to current day events.
What other prophecy experts have influenced your understanding of end-times prophecy?
Dr. David Reagan – I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference a few years ago and we immediately hit it off. He has sort of taken me under his wings and provided a lot of encouragement and support. I guess it is safe to say that he is a veteran amongst prophecy teachers and he sees the need to pass the torch to the younger generation. Upon meeting me, a young man, which is a rarity in Bible prophecy, he has been a strong advocate and encourager to assist me with reaching the young generation.
Nathan Jones – I had the privilege of interacting with Nathan online and upon meeting, we found a lot of common ground. Nathan focuses on using today’s technology (internet, social media, mobile devices, etc.) to spread the word of Bible prophecy. I have developed a great relationship with him in that we often bounce ideas and new discoveries off one another concerning avenues for sharing Bible prophecy with the world.
Dr. Tim LaHaye – Like millions of others, I have been a longtime fan of his Left Behind series. His work has had a great influence on me for teaching Bible prophecy as many have been saved through reading his books and watching his movies. I have an excellent commentary that he created, Revelation Unveiled that is a frequent go-to resource when I study and teach Bible prophecy.
Others like Donald Perkins and Grant Jeffrey are individuals that I have gleaned much knowledge through their teachings.
What would you say is your unique calling in the area of Bible prophecy?
The importance of the nation of Israel. Our Lord placed a strong, almost unexplainable desire in my heart for the Jewish people which is spelled out in our mission statement:
Our mission is proclaiming the soon return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel lies in the center of events that point to the second coming of our Messiah. Therefore, this ministry seeks to raise awareness as to why all Christians should place a special focus on the Jewish nation while anticipating the return of our Lord.
We encourage all Christians to pray without ceasing for Israel and bless their great nation. The Lord told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:3.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
People often find it puzzling that I am a mathematician in that I received a BA degree in Mathematics. What’s the connection to Bible prophecy? None whatsoever as far as I can tell…I’m just one of those strange individuals that loves math!
What is your favorite Bible prophecy resource or study tool?
Revelation Unveiled by Dr. Tim LaHaye. If you want to really understand the prophecies of the book of Revelation, this resource is a must-have for your library.
HERMANEUTICAL (Proper Biblical Interpretation)
What are some important things to keep in mind when studying Bible prophecy?
Always keep the word literal in the forefront of your mind when studying and interpreting Bible prophecy. There are numerous belief systems that sprung up all do to overly symbolizing scriptures. Of course we know that there is symbolism in Bible prophecy and we are called to seek the meaning when detected. But I love to refer to a saying that my friend Dr. David Reagan coined which states, “When the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense or else you end up with nonsense!” This is a very true statement. The eschatological view Preterism, for example, is the belief that all prophecies of the Bible have already taken place. Obviously Jesus Christ has not returned to earth but Preterism explains everything away by way of spiritualizing passages which leads to a circus of interpretations and belief systems. So in summary, always first look to interpret Bible prophecy for its literal meaning. When a literal interpretation is not possible, we then look to symbolic meanings. This way, we avoid interjecting our own preconceived notions onto the meaning of scriptures.
What errors of interpretation have you seen that make Bible prophecy inaccurate, inaccessible, or confusing?
Allegorical interpretation. This approach has led to all kinds of wild theories. Harold Camping is a classic example. Camping insisted that the real meaning of any passage is to be found in its hidden spiritual meaning that can only be decoded by true believers. By doing this, Camping could impose whatever meaning he wanted upon scriptures, which is what he did. He is infamous for having numerous failed predictions concerning the return of Christ. He also taught that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 represent the Church which is far from the truth.
Allegorical interpretation has led to the rise of false doctrines like Replacement Theology which argues that the Church has replaced Israel in the eyes of God. A quick reading of Roman 9 -11 clearly proves Replacement Theology to be incorrect. Preterism, the belief that all prophecy of the Bible has been fulfilled, is another false teaching that came about due to allegorical interpretation.
What is the most compelling reason (or two) that you see for a Pre-Tribulation rapture?
This is one of my favorite points of discussion. There certainly are many compelling reasons for the Pre-Tribulation rapture but I will narrow it down to what I believe are the two most compelling: (1) Imminence (2) Primary Purpose of the Tribulation.
The Apostle Paul gave an account of being taken from earth to be with the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed”. We see that Paul is speaking of a resurrection that will occur quickly, in the twinkling of an eye. When the dead in Christ rise, there will be no corruption associated with their bodies. They will have glorified bodies at that point.
This account from Paul continues a common theme in the scriptures: Imminence. Post-Tribulation & Mid-Tribulation raptures do not have the imminent tone because calculations on timing can be easily made. We know that the seven year Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27). If the rapture only occurs at the midpoint or end of the Tribulation, we could easily calculate the event to the day based on when the Antichrist makes the covenant with Israel. Imminence is displayed in the message that Christ gave to the church at Sardis, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you”. – Revelation 3:2-3.Other accounts of this being an imminent event are found in Matthew 24:27-28, 42-51; Luke 12:35-40. The recurring theme is to watch and be ready.
Primary Purpose of the Tribulation
Symbolism is found between the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Marriage Supper, and the Jewish wedding. The marriage supper is spoken of in the book of Revelation, “Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” – Revelation 19:9. The marriage supper will occur in heaven. Those who are invited will be called blessed because it means they have received eternal salvation through Jesus Christ and have gone to live with the Lord in the eternal state. This event is called a marriage supper that will celebrate being joined with Christ just as we have earthly wedding receptions between husband and wife. There was a Jewish wedding tradition during the time of Jesus on earth. Once an engagement period ended, the groom would go to his father’s house and prepare a wedding chamber. When the chamber was ready, he would go to get his bride to bring her to the chamber. The bride would know he would come for her at some point but did not know when so she had to be ready at all times. When the groom returned for his bride, he would take her to the wedding chamber where they were sealed for seven days. After the seven days, the bride and groom would exit to a large wedding celebration. It may very well be that this same event will occur in a spiritual sense when Jesus raptures the Church. He told us He will return but at a time unknown, so we must be ready. He will take us into heaven to wait out the seven year Tribulation that will be taking place on earth. At the end of the seven years, all those that were raptured will participate in the marriage supper in heaven. At the completion of the supper, we will return with the Lord to earth to defeat Satan (Revelation 19:11-21). I think the Rapture/Marriage Supper will parallel the Jewish wedding tradition.
Confusion surrounding the rapture is settled once it is determined who the event is for. Is it for Israel, the Church, or both? The Rapture is an event that was promised to the Church of the New Testament. For this reason, it was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets. A review of the Old Testament reveals that the focus was on the Jews. But with the New Testament, the focus shifts to the Gentiles and the establishment of the Church. The reason for this shift was because God temporarily suspended His plan for Israel due to their continuous rebellion. In reference to their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, Apostle Paul wrote, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” – Romans 11:11. This verse reveals that God presented salvation to the Gentiles when the Jews rejected Jesus. The Gentiles did what the Jews did not do by accepting Jesus as the Son of God believing that He died and rose again. For this, their reward is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 as being caught up to meet the Lord. The “dead in Christ” refers to the Church Age Saints (Christians). This is a reward because it means Jesus will take Christians out of the earth before having to suffer through the Tribulation.
Some incorrectly believe the Church permanently took Israel’s place in the eyes of God due to Romans 11:11. But as stated in the verse, even though the Jews stumbled, they did not fall meaning that God will restore them and fulfill His promise to Abraham once His plan for the Church is completed. We are seeing that fulfillment in this generation as God returned the Jews to partially claim their Promised Land in 1948 when Israel officially became a re-born nation. But there is more land that He promised them that they do not yet have. Once the Church (Christians) is removed, God will complete His plan for Israel during the seven year Tribulation when they will finally accept Jesus as the Messiah and enter the Millennium with all of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). Daniel 12:2 reveals that the Jews will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation.
The Rapture occurring before the Tribulation becomes apparent after carefully studying the Seventy Sevens prophecy from the book of Daniel. Daniel received this prophecy from an angel over 500 years before Christ would first come to earth. The Jews were in captivity at the time to a foreign nation. Their captivity began when King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian empire invaded Israel. The Babylonian empire was later conquered by the Medo-Persians where the Jews remained under oppression. God had allowed this as punishment to the Jews for repeatedly rebelling against Him through sin and worshipping idol gods. The angel Gabriel came to Daniel and revealed that God would give the nation of Israel seventy weeks to accomplish certain tasks. These seventy prophetic weeks are actually 490 literal years. The seventy weeks were broken into three segments (7 weeks, 62 weeks, 1 week). One of the tasks was to repent of their rebellion. The angel revealed to Daniel that Jesus Christ would come someday but would be crucified because the Jews would continue to rebel and display their rebellion in rejection of God’s Son. This would occur after the 62 week segment, meaning one week (7 literal years) would be left of the prophecy. Christ was crucified almost 2000 years ago but the events detailed in the last week have not yet occurred. The last week is the seven year Tribulation that is still to come. The time between the end of the 62 week segment and the beginning of the last week is known as a prophetic gap. This gap was filled by the Church age. God brought salvation to the Gentiles as a result of the Jews rejecting His Son Jesus (Romans 11:11). His plan for Israel was put on hold as a result of this. But once the Gentiles (Church) is removed by way of the Rapture, God will complete His plan for Israel. When the Church age is removed from the timeline, the seventy sevens prophecy of Daniel perfectly continues from the end of the 69th week (62 week segment) into the 70th week (Tribulation) without a break. God still has a “score” to settle with the nation of Israel and with Satan. Since the Church was not involved in the rejection of Jesus when He first came to earth, it makes sense that the Church will be taken out of the way so as to not get “caught up in the cross fire”. The purpose of the Tribulation (70th week of Daniel’s prophecy) is to bring the Jews to repentance and finally accept Jesus as the Messiah that they have rejected for hundreds of years.
Please understand that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews does not mean that every single Jew rejected Him. All of Jesus’ disciples were Jews and there are many Jewish Christians throughout the world today. But the majority of them have never accepted Jesus as the Messiah. God will unleash tremendous wrath on them during the Tribulation and allow the Antichrist to bring down the worst persecution the world has ever seen. Two-thirds of them will be killed and at that point they will finally turn to God who will open their spiritual eyes to realize Jesus is the Messiah they have always looked for. The scripture states that the remaining one-third will accept Christ and be purified at that point (Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:10; Zechariah 13:9). Jesus will return to earth at the end of the Tribulation and they will then mourn for Him whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7), finally realizing their mistake of crucifying Jesus. Satan will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years at that point. He will be released at the end of the 1,000 year period to receive his final defeat (Revelation 20:1-10).
So it is clear that the Tribulation is designed to bring the Jews to repentance. God will do this out of love, in the same way a parent disciplines a child when he or she is disobedient. This is why Matthew warned the Jews to watch for the Antichrist (Matthew 24:15). They will be on earth when the Antichrist comes to power. The Church is not warned to look for the Antichrist but is told repeatedly to watch for Jesus. The reason being that Jesus will come for the Church before the Tribulation begins. Although the Tribulation is to bring the Jews to accept Christ, non-Jews should NOT be complacent. If a living Gentile has not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, they too will suffer through the Tribulation period. So it is important that all immediately accept Jesus and become a born again Christian if you have not done so already.
STATE OF PROPHECY IN THE CHURCH
How would you encourage a pastor or church to begin teaching on prophecy?
I recommend that a pastor or church bring in a Bible prophecy expert to hold a weekend conference. God has raised up numerous individuals that have dedicated their lives to studying and teaching Bible prophecy, meaning Bible prophecy is their area of focus. I will admit that understanding and teaching Bible prophecy requires a tremendous amount of preparation and study. Many pastors are already stretched thin with juggling the demands of shepherding their flocks and therefore find it somewhat difficult to get motivated to delve into Bible prophecy (not that I’m making an excuse for so many pastors that dismiss it, just stating that I am understanding to a degree). So I recommend that they bring in a Bible prophecy teacher on at least a quarterly basis to present a conference. But the teaching should not only occur during the conference weekends. In between conferences, the pastor should piggyback on what was presented by being a student of the information himself while expounding on it to his congregation. Many people are perplexed by things that are going on in the world today. I think that pastors will be pleasantly surprised to find that parishioners are eager to learn and will be intrigued upon learning that events in our world today are prophesied in the Bible. So to summarize, (1) bring in a Bible prophecy expert to get the ball rolling, (2) expound on information from the conference, (3) relate current world events to prophecies of the Bible.
Do you think the teaching of prophecy will lead to church growth (in numbers and maturity)? Why or why not?
I do believe it will lead to church growth in numbers and maturity. I think this will happen because a lot of people have questions concerning why certain things are taking place in the world. Many wondered why terrorists intentionally flew planes into buildings on September 11, 2001, why the Palestinians and Jews are in constant conflict, why marriages are failing at a high rate, to give a few examples. Well the answers to these questions are found in Bible prophecy and I think the hunger for these answers and for what the future holds will draw people to the church. I think the 12th chapter of Daniel alludes to this. We find in Daniel 12:4, “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” I believe this is referring to the Tribulation. As devastating calamities are coming upon the earth during that time, people will seek out answers as to why the events are taking place. Many will “run to and fro” to the Bible trying to figure out what is happening and knowledge of end times events will increase.
What do you see as the top reason churches should consider teaching Bible prophecy?
Bible prophecy gives hope for the future. People often portray prophecy as gloom and doom and I have often heard pastors say prophecy is just a distraction. But to those individuals, I say God must have wanted us to have a lot of distractions because He placed lots of prophecy in the Bible. Nearly a third of the Bible is Bible prophecy. And I think pastors are doing a great disservice to their congregations when they choose to ignore Bible prophecy because what hope, what true hope can one have if you take away Bible prophecy? For example, think of a person who has lost a loved one who is a Christian. That person has died. You can have great hope and the grieving is not so devastating when you know that at the return of Christ, prophecy says that person will be resurrected, they will rise again and you will be reunited. I’ve heard pastors dismiss prophecy in many ways such as they must focus on issues of today like immorality with children, rebellious children, problems in marriages, unemployment, financial troubles, sickness, etc. But what better hope can you give a person then to say when Christ returns, instantly all these problems will come to an end? So I say that Bible prophecy is where we get hope, we get incentive that we can keep pressing forward even through the struggles of today. Bible prophecy lets us know that in the end, Jesus wins and therefore we as His followers win as well. Trouble will not last always. A perfect existence is coming.
Do you think talking about prophecy and end-time events will make a church seem weird or scare away seekers? Why or why not?
I do think that unfortunately some will view a church that teaches prophecy as weird and scare some people away. The reason for this is directly due to people like Harold Camping. Camping, who recently passed away, claimed to be a Christian and authority on Bible prophecy. He made numerous failed predictions concerning the return of Christ. Many in the world laughed at him and laughed at us as Christians, putting us all into the same “company” when it comes to Christian beliefs. Any true Bible believing Christian knows that we cannot predict the return of Christ. The Bible makes that very clear. But Camping has caused many to view all Christians as quacks. But on the flip side, true seekers, meaning those that truly hunger for God’s word will not be turned off by a Church that teaches prophecy. They will be drawn to it and not be afraid of being ridiculed by non-believers for an association with a prophecy believing church. Just like the Apostle Paul, true seekers will be excited about the return of Christ and look forward to that event.
What topics or common mistakes should churches avoid when teaching Bible prophecy?
Avoid the temptation to view & interpret Bible prophecy based on one’s own personal experience. One mistake concerning interpreting the Bible in general is that many do not view it through the eyes of the culture of the day in which it was written. The Bible has numerous parables that directly relate to the Jewish culture of that day. For example, to get a clear meaning of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, one must understand the Jewish wedding tradition and how it relates to the return of Christ. Understanding the Feasts of the Lord that were commanded for the Jews to observe is critical for understanding the correlation to Bible prophecy. But many in the western world, read the Bible through the eyes of our western culture and we therefore miss interpretations.
Another common mistake is reading news headlines into prophecy. It is good to view current events in light of Bible prophecy as many prophecies are being fulfilled in our day. But some go overboard and try to make everything a sign of the times or fulfillment of prophecy when it really is not.
And lastly, a common mistake that has led to all kinds of false interpretations is Replacement Theology. The fact that Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah resulting in their world-wide dispersion, has led to a great satanic deception which has invaded the Christian Church with many teaching that God’s covenant with Israel no longer exists. This is known as Replacement Theology – the view that the church is the new or true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded Israel as the people of God. This belief causes one to misunderstand the Tribulation, end time events concerning Israel, etc. Romans 9 – 11 makes it clear that the church has not replaced the nation of Israel.
How can we best reach Millennials with the message of Bible prophecy?
I must admit that I have found reaching Millennials with the message of Bible prophecy to be a real challenge. The majority of Millennials have bought into the belief that morality is based on feelings rather than the truth of God’s word. Many deem that what is right or wrong in life is determined by whether it feels good or not. Being a follower of Christ requires that we deny our own agendas. Jesus in Mark 8:34 tells us whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Accepting Bible prophecy means being willing to be ridiculed and persecuted for standing for what’s right. We already see persecution of Christians in the world today and it will climax during the Tribulation when all on earth will have to make the decision to choose Jesus Christ or the Antichrist. Choosing Jesus Christ may mean, going hungry because we may not be able to buy food or missing out on a job for refusing to compromise on a moral issue. So the first thing we must do is get Millennials to accept the “denial of self” frame of mind.
Secondly, Millennials are much less likely to read a 200+ page book on Bible prophecy. Social media, text messaging, smart phones have sort of conditioned us to only digest things in bite sized pieces. Anything that takes more than a few minutes to listen to or read, the Millennials likely will bypass. So I think the message of prophecy needs to be delivered to that generation in bite sized pieces via social media. I have found that video / animation social media posts that run 30 seconds to a minute seem to be effective in reaching the short attention span that we often see in Millennials. There are always exceptions to the rule but this seems to be the common theme.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
What is the most compelling end-time sign you see taking place in our day?
The rebirth of the nation of Israel. Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree in Matthew 24:32-35 in His Olivet Discourse. A day earlier in Matthew 21:18-19, He had put a curse on a fruitless fig tree and immediately the tree withered away. He did this as a prophetic symbol that God’s wrath would be poured out on the Jewish nation due to their spiritual rebellion against Jesus Christ. Many Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah at that time and most present day Jews still reject Him as the Son of God. But they will realize He is the Messiah at the end of the Great Tribulation.
So Jesus told the disciples to watch the fig tree. When they saw it bloom again, it would mark His soon return. The fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Joel 1:7; Luke 13:6-9). The blossoming of the fig tree was symbolic of Israel “blooming” into a nation again. Jesus stated when they saw these things to know that His return is near and that He would be waiting at the gate of heaven, waiting for the command from the Father to return (Matthew 24:33). He went on to say that this generation shall not pass until all these things happen (Matthew 24:34). He was referring to the generation that sees the fig tree blossom. The wrath of God was poured out on the Jews in 70 AD and they were driven into exile away from the Promised Land. But after 1878 years, Israel blossomed into a nation again on May 14, 1948 as fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus told us what to look for, therefore prepare yourself because our Messiah is coming for us soon!
How do you think Christians should respond to what we’re seeing in the world today?
The late Pastor Adrian Rogers coined a phrase that I really love when it comes to prophecy and the conditions of the world today. He would state, “It is getting gloriously dark”. It is getting dark in that immorality continues to get worse and worse and our hearts grieve as we see the rebelliousness to God and the tremendous suffering that it is causing in people’s lives. But the flip side of that is that the Bible declares things would happen this way just prior to the return of our Lord. So we Christians should not be discouraged. Yes, our hearts break for the darkness that is occurring and we do not delight in people’s suffering. But we should be extremely excited over the idea that our Lord may be returning for His people any day now. And I truly believe we are the generation that will witness the return of our Messiah to earth.
What is the most encouraging advice you can give to Christians right now regarding the times we live in?
Bible prophecy is a message of hope & comfort. We find that in the words of Apostle Paul: But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Notice that Apostle Paul concluded his message by stating to comfort one another. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture is an event of comfort knowing that we will rise to be with our Lord and saved loved ones. Paul wrote the above text to the Church at Thessilonica in response to their sorrow/concern. The people there were troubled believing they had missed the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Apparently an imposter had written to the Church stating that Christ’s return to earth had come and gone. This imposter signed Paul’s name to the letter. So Paul is comforting them to let them know that day has not come. In verse 13, Paul refers to those that have died as “those who have fallen asleep”. He is instructing the Church to not be sorrowful as if there is no hope for them. He continues in verse 14 by stating that if they believed Jesus died and rose from the dead (meaning they were Christians), God would also resurrect those who had accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah before their death. These people will be resurrected and taken up to live with the Lord. Paul then speaks of the sequence of the events. There will be the sounding of a trumpet, the Lord will descend from heaven, the dead in Christ (Christians) will rise from the grave first, then those who are alive will be caught up (raptured) with them into the clouds where all will meet the Lord in the air. From that point forward, Christians will always be with the Lord. Paul gave these words so that we would comfort each other knowing that we will be with our Christian loved ones that have passed on and we will all dwell with the Lord forever.
The Apostle Paul preached about hope in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. He was addressing those who said there was no resurrection and told them that we know there is a resurrection because Christ rose from the dead. Since Christ was resurrected, we have hope knowing that all who have died in Christ (Christians) will be resurrected also to eternal joy. This pertains to the raising of the dead when the rapture occurs. Christians who are alive will be caught up to the Lord in the air after the dead rise (1 Corinthians 15:23). The unsaved will also rise from the dead (Acts 24:15; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29). But their resurrection will occur at the end of Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth. They will face the opposite fate of resurrected Christians, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”. – Revelation 20:13-15.
1 Corinthians 15 makes it crystal clear that Paul is referring to those that have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior when he wrote “the dead in Christ”, which is the Church of the New Testament. This does not apply to the Old Testament Saints (Israel) because Christ had not yet come to earth during their time. Therefore, they did not yet have an opportunity to receive Him.
Jesus stated that He would return from heaven for those who believed in God and accepted Him as the Son of God, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” – John 14:1-4. I believe Jesus is referring to the Rapture before the Tribulation with these words. So although times may look very dark for Christians today, it seems that every segment of society is pushing against the ways of God and promoting immorality, great things are on the horizon for those of us that put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
How close do you feel we are to the Lord’s return and why?
I feel we are extremely close to the return of our Lord. I am cautious to not make a prediction because the Bible makes it very clear that we cannot know the day of His return. But the Bible makes it clear that we can know the season. Jesus told us in the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35) that the season of His return would be marked by the blossoming of the fig tree. I believe this fig tree is the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Joel 1:7; Luke 13:6-9). The generation that sees it reborn as we did in 1948, would be the generation to see His return (Matthew 24:34). Israel’s rebirth happened 68 years ago. How long is a generation? Well, it is up for debate. Depending upon context, 40, 70, 100 are all cited as length of years in the scripture for a generation. But I think it is important to not get caught up in the exact number. But instead, realize and recognize what Christ told us to look for. We are excitingly close!
Is there anything else you would like to share or comment on regarding Bible prophecy?
Bible prophecy is a message of joy and happiness. I feel so disappointed when I hear people describe Bible prophecy as gloom and doom and I often hear people in the church portray it that way. But I can honestly say that when I go to Bible prophecy conferences and have fellowship with attendees, that those are some of the most joyous events that I have ever seen. You want to see a group of happy people? Go to a Bible prophecy conference. Why are so many of the people there so filled with joy? It is because we all know the end of the story. And the end is that Jesus returns to proclaim the earth. Satan will be defeated and we will live in a perfect world right here on this earth for all eternity, living in the presence of our Lord! What a great picture to have in our minds of what is yet to come!