âThen there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.â â Matthew 24:40â41 (NASB)
There is a YouTube video which depicts what is probably the most mainstream concept of how the Rapture is envisioned to work. It shows a Sunday morning church service where the pastor is preaching about the Rapture to a congregation of a couple hundred when the dramatic sound of thunder takes all but a handful âin the twinkling of an eyeâ. (1 Co. 15:52) The miserable few who are left behind are dazed and shocked in a now almost empty church as more than 95% of the congregation were instantly translated in the Rapture. At the risk of filling up my email beyond its theoretical capacity, I am going to ask you to consider whether it is really going to happen like that. Do you think everyone currently attending church is going to be snatched up as portrayed in the video? I think it is opposite of that. If I were making the video, 190 people would be sitting there wondering what happened to the 10 or so whose disappearance was so unobtrusive to that Sunday morning service that they begin with a search to see if they are in the bathroom or parking lot.
I am not going to address the issue of âwhenâ the Rapture takes place. For some time Iâve been bugging Jacob Prasch to author a definitive booklet on Morielâs âIntra-Tribulationalâ position and hope that it will provide a definitive, biblical answer to that question. (Hint, hint, Jacob.) No, I am assuming that like the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians you are at least in agreement that there IS a Rapture, or as I prefer, the âHarpazoâ, which is the actual Greek term used in Scripture. It appears to me that partly due to theological teachings of eschatology on one hand, and a wildly popular Christian fiction market where the End Times are concerned on the other, that the mainstream belief where the Harpazo is concerned is that basically everyone in church is guaranteed a ticket out of here. I have come to believe that in these Last Days in which we are seeing Scripture so accurately fulfilled in its characterization of these times as rife with spiritual deception, that this popular notion of the Harpazo is itself no small deception.
I first and foremost want you to consider who is âqualifiedâ to participate in the Harpazo? There has to be some kind of âminimum requirementâ since not everyone is being taken. Scripture provides a lot of clues when it comes to figuring out who is going to be taken and who is going to be left behind. Consider those people we know of who were snatched away and saved in the same manner as the ultimate Harpazo to come. A quick list is Enoch, Noah, Lot and Elijah. Do you notice something these men all had in common? They were all extraordinarily faithful and spiritually obedient people. They were not people who merely believed God existed, or someone who acknowledged God â they were people who lived exclusively and wholly devoted lives to Him alone. Do you think participants in the Harpazo will be any less qualified? I am not saying only âperfectâ people will go, I am suggesting that only the scripturally defined âfaithfulâ are the qualified candidates.
We live in an age when it is statistically impossible to distinguish the difference between someone who goes to church from someone who does not. (Notice I am not narrowing the field to âBible-believing Christiansâ because the video, like the general notion of the Harpazo, is that basically everyone at church is going to be snatched away.) Pick any moral issue which is supposed to differentiate the saved from the unsaved and, in America at least, there is no statistical difference. They both have the same divorce rate, the same attitudes toward sex and relationships, the same opinions on homosexuality, and in spite of their public stance to the contrary, the same percentage of abortions. In the face of these facts, do you really believe that everyone at church today is a member of the âfaithful remnantâ? Do you believe that even half of the average congregation qualifies? Or is every congregation deceived into thinking that it is the one exception to all the others in order for the statistics to make sense?
For a long time many of us have followed the work of George Barna, the Christian researcher who knew that there was something wrong when most Americans identified themselves as âChristianâ. Common sense tells us something is wrong with that kind of response because if the majority were truly âChristianâ then how could we be experiencing so many moral and spiritual problems today? Why wouldnât every law passed in America conform to scriptural standards? How could America not obviously be anything other than âChristianâ if such a majority claimed to be so? Why would we ban prayer in school, the Ten Commandments from courtrooms, or promote Islamic practices in our schools? Barna realized that he had to narrow the requirements in order to uncover the truth.
He chose to determine who exactly was an âEvangelicalâ rather than simply a âChristianâ because Evangelicals were supposed to be closer to the definition of someone who practiced what they preached rather than merely being a cultural Christian in name only or someone who just âgoes to churchâ. Barna developed a set of criteria he calls âthe 9-point evangelicalâ. Such people are defined according to the following rules:
1.Â Â Â They say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.
2.Â Â Â They believe when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ as Savior.
3.Â Â Â They say their faith is very important in their life today.
4.Â Â Â They believe they have a personal responsibility to share their beliefs with non-Christians.
5.Â Â Â They believe Satan exists.
6.Â Â Â They believe eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works.
7.Â Â Â They believe Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.
8.Â Â Â They assert that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches.
9.Â Â Â They describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.
In other words, if you ask everyone in a given room if they consider themselves to be a âChristianâ, practically all the hands will instinctively go up. If you then ask, âHow many of you are âEvangelicalâ Christians?â the majority drop their arms and only 38% of hands are still in the air. But if you ask everyone to keep their hand in the air to affirm they believe in each of the above nine points as they are read one by one, the end result will be that only about 8% of the room will still be holding up a hand to affirm all nine of the basic criteria. By what standard do you determine whether or not someone or something is âChristianâ? If Barna hasnât provided the minimum requirements for the members of the faithful remnant, what would you add or change? I think these are minimally basic.
I am saying that from a common sense, scriptural evaluation that we are living at a time when the number of the truly faithful are dwindling rather than ascending in numbers. Do you really think there is some kind of âexceptionâ which will make the Harpazo as radically big as the mainstream appear to believe? Is it likely that the Harpazo is much bigger than we think to include so many âculturalâ Christians, or is it more realistically to be smaller based on the spiritual condition of all the potential candidates?
But there is one other trend I implore you to consider. As Jacob Prasch has taught in a great many of his sermons concerning the Last Days, if you want to attain to the best understanding of what it is going to be like leading up to Christâs Second Coming, learn everything you can about His First Coming. Nearly everything in His First Coming foreshadows a greater, ultimate fulfillment in His Second Coming.
At His First Coming there was a one-world government with a self-deified ruler from Rome which foreshadows the ultimate fulfillment of the working of the Antichrist at His Second Coming. At His First Coming everyone was marked for economic control just as at His Second Coming no one can buy or sell without the mark of the Beast. At His First Coming Herod foreshadows the dragon of Revelation in the persecution of Godâs people. On and on it goes throughout the Gospels. Through the events and patterns of His First Coming the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us something about their ultimate fulfillment at His Second Coming.
What has this to do with how many are going to actually participate in the Harpazo? Look at how few recognized and followed Christ at His First Coming! More importantly, make a very careful study of the statistically very few who recognized and believed to the degree that they were true followers by scriptural standards.
The odds are very good if you are 30-35 years of age or younger that you do not know that the definition of âChristianâ has changed dramatically in just the span of a single generation. It is the same with the term âEvangelicalâ. Things which in the first half of my life were identified as âheresyâ, âfalse teachingâ, and out-and-out âliesâ are today, quite shockingly, accepted as being âChristianâ and/or âEvangelicalâ in my waning years. That the world redefines terms according to their own notions is to be expected, but how does this happen within the walls of the Church? It has happened the same way it always has going back to the earliest days recorded in Scripture: by neglecting the Word. And this is exactly the most oft-addressed issue in the Gospels, how so few clung to the Word and so many misapplied it, misused it, or rejected it outright.
Do you see how closely the present situation mirrors that of Christâs First Coming? Jesus faced priests and Levites who treated their office as nothing more than a vocation. He faced Sadducees who were liberal religious scholars who did not believe in any kind of literal interpretation of Scripture but treated it as allegory and mythology. He faced Pharisees and scribes who elevated their own interpretations and works above the authority of the original Scriptures. In other words, at every turn He faced people who on nearly every level conceivable turned away from the plain and simple application of Godâs Word in favor of something else. We have that in multiplied volume and effect at this present hour.
This battle over Godâs Word began with Satan himself trying to twist Scripture during the temptation in the wilderness. It was evident at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus repeatedly states, âYou have heard it saidâ¦but I say to youâ in order to rectify their treatment of Scripture. It is seen time and again in dust-ups with the various authorities over the Sabbath and the washing of hands and what Jesus calls their âtraditionsâ. It characterizes Christâs last days on earth in the Temple when various factions tried to question Him where Godâs Word is concerned. They even mock His Words while He is on the cross! One of the most prolific characteristics of the people during the time of Christâs First Coming is that the majority had found various ways to ignore, mangle, or misinterpret Godâs Word to such a degree that they missed out on Jesus. At His First Coming, to those who were supposed to know the Word, Christ saidâ¦
âFor if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. â John 5:46 (NASB)
Because they wanted Scripture to be fulfilled according to their own expectations, their own desires, their own chosen lifestyles, they disqualified themselves at Christâs First Coming. I see the same thing happening again, only on an even larger scale.
When I see the growing impact of the Purpose Driven agenda, I donât merely see people being deceived, I see a reduction in the candidates for the Harpazo. When I see the growing influence of the Emergent Church what I see is a reduction in the candidates for the Harpazo. When I see the wholesale embrace of New Age practices inside the walls of the Church I see a reduction in the candidates for the Harpazo. When I see the crowds flocking to the likes of Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, or any of the other so-called âsigns and wondersâ freak shows, I see a reduction in the candidates for the Harpazo. When I see the de-emphasis if not outright silence when it comes to the teaching of the cross and a commitment to exclusively live according to Godâs Word alone, I see a reduction in the candidates for the Harpazo.
Enoch, Noah, Lot, and Elijah all lived in an age of apostasy where the truly scripturally faithful were but the tiniest minority. But when it comes to the final and last age of apostasy which they foreshadow, Jesus says it leads into âa great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever willâ. (Mt. 24:21) In other words, it is greatly magnified and more pervasive than during any other time in history!
Are you genuinely consumed with being one of those who is eligible for the Harpazo? Then carefully study those who were qualified at His First Coming.
When Jesus had a question of His own for the religious of His day, why did He ask them, âThe baptism of John was from what source?â (Mt. 21:25) It goes hand-in-hand with Jesusâ earlier observation, âBut the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected Godâs purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by Johnâ. (Lk. 7:30) The only ones âqualifiedâ to understand and accept Christâs Word at His First Coming were those who first and foremost genuinely repented of sin. Those who donât truly commit to the work of the cross cannot properly put His Word into practice so as to attain to the scriptural definition of someone who is âfaithfulâ, someone I hold to be a right and proper âcandidateâ for the Harpazo. I believe this is one of the reasons that when it comes to the End Times, the chief activity Christ Himself encourages us to engage in is the preaching of the Gospel.
I know that there are still a great many people who have never heard the Gospel and desperately need the chance. But like it was at Christâs First Coming, I also believe there is a very big âmission fieldâ right inside the institution we call âchurchâ. There is every bit the need to bring the work of the cross and the Word to those today following in name only in the shadow of Christâs Second Coming as it was during His First Coming. It is the only possible way to boost the membership of those who will actually participate in the Harpazo to come.
At His First Coming Christ called out and sent new messengers to preach the simple truth of the Word, those who would lead in preaching the cross and obedience to His Word. In the shadow of His Second Coming the need is even greater.
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. â Matthew 9:36 (NASB)
This is what I see the famous false teachers of the pervasive false spiritual movements doing to the institution of the church today, a place populated with âsheep without a shepherdâ. Or in context with what weâve been discussing, âPassengers who donât actually have a ticketâ. As at His First Coming, the institution is again miserably failing. Like the authorities to whom the Magi first went, such can quote Scripture, but they were not the ones to respond to God’s Word; it was the shepherds who were actually out with the flock. The same work and calling is required again.