Yesterday, I was in the lobby of a public building, which had a large-screen TV on the wall, serving general interest and providing background noise. All of a sudden I caught a “talking head” say that some Christians are expecting the “Rapture” to take place this Saturday, September 23. More information was promised, “…when we come back.”
The follow-up information revealed a self-described “Christian numerologist” and self-published author named David Mead is among internet prognosticators saying that on September 23, 2017, the sun, moon, and stars will mirror “signs” from chapter 12 of the Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. This phenomenon will supposedly signal the beginning of events associated in Scriptures with the end of the world, culminating with the judgments and wrath of God and, finally, the second coming of Christ to Earth.
Meade also predicts a mythological planetary system known as Planet X or Nibiru will appear in the sky or crash into the Earth on or near September 23. He claims if it just passes the Earth, its gravitational force will knock the planet off its polar axis and cause huge volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Not all biblical prophecy experts buy into the Planet X hypothesis and its linkage to the astrological “sign” of the woman of Revelation 12 and warn Christians to be careful about being drawn into such sensational claims. Others outright mock the theory and its adherents. One said:
I think he missed it. The great “sign” of the end is not Planet X it is the iPhone X and that does not happen until after September 23rd.
Solar Phenomena and Biblical Prophecy
Since ancient times, people have perceived total eclipses (as Americans uniquely experienced on August 21) as omens or perhaps the beginnings of the judgment of God and the end of the world, as we know it. The Bible refers to such a time of divine wrath as the “last times” (1 Peter 1:20, Hebrews 1:1-2) or “the Day of the Lord.” This time will also include “signs in the heavens,” astrological alignments and phenomena announcing dramatic, cataclysmic events.
Jesus said that at “the end of the age,” after the “tribulation of those days” and just before His “coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” then “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light: the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29-30)
It seems clear, from the mouth of Jesus in this Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and Luke 21), that we should expect to see the “beginning of sorrows” or “Jacob’s Troubles” for the Jewish people first. Then “great tribulation” will be released by Satan and his Anti-Christ on all of God’s elect. During this time, deceivers and conspirators will try to divert our loyalty and devotion from the God of Heaven and Earth.
These realities will be followed by cosmic disturbances and signs, including the “sign of the Son of Man” appearing in heaven, against the backdrop of a darkened sun and moon. Other cosmic disturbances will occur, including “stars” (Planet X? asteroids?) falling from heaven, causing great earthquakes and tsunamis on Earth.
After all of these astronomical events, Jesus will “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet” to “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
So how should believers relate to these terrible times and cosmic calamities, as they live in these “last days”?
The Apostle Paul spoke of these practical issues when he wrote to the believers in Thessalonica. He commended them for turning from their former beliefs, superstitions, and practices “…to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
Later, in his second epistle to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul warned them (2 Thess. 2:1-12) that before the “Day of the Lord” will come, to demonstrate God’s glory over all opposition, two key things must happen. First, there will be a great turning away (“apostasy”) from the truth and love of God. Many professing believers will specifically deny their faith and commitment to the one true God, who Paul and others had preached to them.
Secondly, the “lawlessness one” must be revealed and his restrainer removed. This strong leader will take a stand against Christ and “exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped.” This Anti-Christ will even seek to show that he is God, by sitting in the rebuilt “temple of God” in Jerusalem and demanding to be worshipped. The true saints of God will refuse and resist him and he will persecute them for three and one-half years (Daniel 7:25).
But, this “man of sin” cannot begin his evil ways until God sovereignly removes a “restrainer” who/which hinders his actions now. In God’s timing, this “restrainer” will “step aside” and allow this evil one freedom to function. (2 Thess. 2:3-12).
In the meantime, true believers must learn to live in these darkening last days and prayerfully seek to discern the truth of God’s Word and connect the dots of prophecy. As they do, believers are sustained by their holy expectation of the Lord’s return to resurrect dead believers and instantly transform living believers to their eternal rewards and to live with Him forever. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58; John 14:1-6, 28)
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
No one knows the day or the hour, but believers who “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1) will be “caught up” and “gathered together” to Him, in a great “harvest” or “reaping” by His holy angels (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matthew 24:31; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 14:6-16).
These are more accurate, biblical terms than the Latin variant, from which the word “rapture” is derived in Church doctrine. They help us to distinguish between that upward gathering of believers in the clouds of heaven and Christ’s second coming to earth (Revelation 19:11-21; Zechariah 14:4).
These are two different events but they can be understood as part of one grand conclusion to this world and the beginning of the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom, to come. (1 Cor. 15:24; Rev. 20:4)
“Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns.” (Rev. 19:6b)