The Little Book of the Revelation - Seventh in a series
In the previous post we looked at passages of Scripture that describe persecution of Christians in the last days. We were exhorted to have patience in the tribulations. We were warned not to take the mark of the beast which will be an I.D. to enable buying and selling.
Reviewing the warnings in Revelation 13 and 14 took us away from the chapter by chapter lead up to Revelation 11, but were viewed as relevant to the focus of this blog series– the contents of the Little Book. Before taking up Chapter 8 when the seventh seal is opened, let’s look at a final warning and consider its relevance in the context of Chapter 16.
In Revelation 16:15, before Armageddon (Rev 16:16), there is a warning, presumably to believers: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Rev 16:15 ASV)
In some versions of the Bible, this verse is enclosed with parentheses and in some, by quotation marks. These are the words of Jesus Christ.
My opinion is, that warning is not timely, that is, possible to have effect at that point in the end-days timetable, since the judgments of Revelation 16 are unrelenting and final. Perhaps it is instead a strong reminder to the reader that the time to commit your life to Christ is NOW. Delaying can only lead to that moment when time is collapsing at a rate that exceeds your capacity to decide or act. (Ps 32:6)
Be forewarned, by watching and remaining covered by God’s armor (Eph 6:10-17), one will keep his standing and will not be in the company of the ones who will confront the thief in the night as those caught off guard.
Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5, instructs the congregation:
- But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief:
- for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness;
- so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober.
- For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night.
- But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
- For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (1 Th 5:4-10 ASV)
This passage encourages us not to worry that we will ‘miss the boat.’ Christians are ‘of the day’; we stand firm by the armor of Christ, and we will know when the events of the end are materializing. We will not take the mark of the beast and be caught up in the rush toward Armageddon.
Some believe that following a ‘rapture’ of believers there will yet be a time on the earth when people can come into the kingdom, finding salvation in Christ. Thus, this warning (in Rev 16:15) could be timely in the midst of the Chapter 16 judgments to those latecomers to the faith. In this view, the rapture is a separate event from the resurrection.
A belief in the rapture is in part based on the Lord’s words in Matthew 24 and Luke 17, that some will be at the wheel grinding or in bed or in the field when others are taken at His Coming—
- …and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left… (Mat 24:39-41)
Those who believe in a Rapture do not associate the ‘taking’ of some people with Paul’s prophetic words that after the dead in Christ rise first, those who are alive are ‘caught up’ with them, (1 Th 4:16, 17) but would regard that as the time of resurrection. They also point out that it is not reasonable to think that the ‘distress of nations’ and shaking of the powers in heaven described in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 would occur simultaneously with the people sleeping, grinding at the mill or farming.
We might say that it is a reasonable assumption that even those in captivity could be among those asleep or grinding at a mill or farming, as prisoners. For some it may seem to be a relatively normal time up to the last moment, but not for all. These matter are difficult to discern, but all would agree that the return of the Lord will be preceded by unusual disturbances in nature and that the second coming will catch many by surprise. We also know that the Son of Man will come after the darkening of the sun and moon and the final shaking of the heavens, and that after that time he will come to ‘gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ (Mat 24:31) Important to note: The saints are then gathered from the four winds and from the heavens, not from the earth. So, are they in the air, the winds, by a rapture or because they were resurrected? Are they, including the dead, at that time clothed in their new bodies or are they only spirits?
Does it matter whether a person believes in a rapture or that the rapture is the resurrection of the righteous? Perhaps it could matter if one did not mentally address the prospect of intense suffering by Christians, true Christians. Though we escape the final bowl judgments, a time of the great tribulation is assigned to us, Christians, beloved of the Lord.
How can we prepare for cruel suffering? To answer this, we return to Christ’s admonitions to the seven churches: Hold fast to your first love; pray earnestly to be close to the Lord; love others through deeds, forgive debts; put away all known sin. God will help us.
All will be well, even if the all the waves and billows of God crash over us. (Ps 42:7-8)
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