Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Rapture - Part II

The whole concept of a rapture comes from an interpretation of a prophecy of Daniel's. Its in Daniel chapter 9 verses 24-27.

Note that a "septet" means "seven" (i.e. seven days - a week). The angel used the sevens concept deliberately for symbolic reasons rather than just giving numbers (e.g. seven "sevens" rather than just saying 49).

"Seventy septets are decreed on your people and on your holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the anointed one, the Prince, shall be seven septets, and sixty-two septets. It shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troubled times. And after the sixty-two septets shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and the war shall last until the end of the desolations that are determined. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one septet: and in the midst of the septet he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. From an extreme edge shall come an abomination, one that makes desolate, even to the full end of that determined, shall wrath be poured out on the desolate."

Seemingly endless interpretations of this prophecy exist. A serious problem is that historians can't definitely prove dates of when kings reigned. The same problem exists with Jewish history. Along with this there is question of just how we classify this command going forth to restore Jerusalem (as several commands went forth). This shouldn't have presented a problem to the people at the time, who would know the history first hand, rather than by interpretations of sometimes partially damaged tablets or conflicting written histories. Thus the interpretation of events referred to in this prophecy are subject to wide opinion now. It would be an enormous post all of its own to go through all the major opinions available.

Reading through the various opinions makes me think strongly on the advice in 2 Peter 1:20-21 about not making private interpretations of prophesies, but to use the Holy Ghost in such things instead. But I will share two of these interpretations. One that shows how the rapture concept has been connected with this prophecy, and one that opposes it. I'll begin with the latter as it is by far the more logical interpretation, because it doesn't make an unspecified interval, proposed by the former.

We have 69 (7 + 62) "sevens" prophesied before Christ(?) turns up. 69 X 7 = 483 days. It is presented that the Bible states that we should take a year for a day in prophecy (Ezek 4:6). Therefore we have 483 years. But it must be remembered that the Roman calendar didn't have a year 0. Thus we go from the year 1 BC to the year 1 AD.

It proposes that the beginning of the seventy septets occurred in 455 BC (the decree of Artaxerxes in his 20th year for Nehemiah). The 70th septet, therefore, begins in 29 AD when Christ began his ministry (according to the supporters of this interpretation). In 33 AD, 3.5 years (midway) into the 70th septet of years, the Messiah atoned for sins, thus causing the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, as prophesied.

However exponents of the rapture concept propose a different starting year and that the last septet of the 70 septets hasn't occurred yet. They refer to the statement, "And after the sixty-two septets shall the anointed one be cut off," proposing that this means EXACTLY at the end of the sixty-two septets (which come after the first 7 septets, thus equalling 69 septets) Christ would die, not during the 70th septet. This leaves us with a seven year period spare. They then propose that this 70th septet hasn't occurred yet.

They interpret events as such:
(the "sevens" are referred to as "weeks" in this translation)

A. Daniel 9:25 Jerusalem construction declared:
"Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem"
B. Daniel 9:25 Prophecy of the Messiah:
unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:
C. Daniel 9:25 Jerusalem Construction happening:
it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times.
D. Daniel 9:26 Messiah dies:
And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing:
E. Daniel 9:26 Jerusalem Destroyed by Romans 70 AD:
and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined.
F. Daniel 9:27 Messiah has pre-rapture of righteous as 7 years of devastation begins:
"And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease" - they relate this to the prophesied evil beasts referred to in the Book of Revelation that will come before Christ's coming, saying that they will destroy the temple that will soon be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
G. Daniel 9:27 Jerusalem Destroyed again before Christ's second (third, according to the theory) coming:
"and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that makes desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate."

However there are flaws in this latter interpretation. First, its whole basis for proposing a difference between the two mentions of Jerusalem being destroyed is that there are two mentions: Proposing they can't be the same destruction therefore: That we must read it as a continual story without repetition. Yet they are proposing a repetition of the things relative to the Messiah (Christ) and the sixty-two "sevens." Second, this text has Jerusalem destroyed completely the second time. Yet Zechariah tells us that an entire one-third of the population of Jerusalem will still be alive when Christ arrives for his coming (Zech 13:8). Third, it proposes an unstated interval of nearly 2,000 years - an amazing lot of supposition.

But what scripture texts stand as opposition to the idea?

"I don't pray that you should take them [his followers] out of the world, but that you would keep them for the evil one." John 17:15

This states that Christ isn't into removing his followers from the earth as an answer to coming problems.

"According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep." 1 Thess 4:15

So those who are alive won't be raptured before the dead. Note that he states "we". Therefore he wasn't anticipating any early rapture where they would be taken before the resurrection of those already "fallen asleep" (dead).

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thess 4:16-17

This not only states that the living won't precede the dead in being raptured, but that the dead will actually go first. Again note that he says "we". So this confirms that he didn't anticipated some early rapture.

"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Matt 16:27

Here Christ is saying that it is at his coming that every man shall be rewarded, nothing about some being rewarded years before.

When giving the parable of the sower Christ says in regard the wicked and the righteous_

"Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, gather together the tares first, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn." Matt 13:30

This presents that Christ will destroy the wicked BEFORE gathering the righteous. It also presents that both should grow TOGETHER (i.e. not be separated until the final harvest).

Matthew chapter 24 contains signs of Christ's second coming. It talks of all the wars, pestilences and earthquakes we should anticipate. It talks of the "abomination that makes desolate" (or "abomination of desolation"). It talks of great tribulation.

Yet before it gets to the tribulation and abomination of desolation to come, it states,

"But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved." (verse 13)

This suggests that the person is already a believer and needs to endure through the whole thing until the end - not to some pre-rapture.

While the idea of avoiding the worst of it sounds wonderful, the Scriptures don't support this concept. Not only isn't it supported, but they oppose it. It just comes out as another wishful thinking doctrine: A "wouldn't it be nice if."

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Rapture - is there a resurrection to occur some Years before Christ's Second Coming? Part I

Most believers in the second coming of Christ believe in some form of raising of the righteous at that time. Yet there are those who believe in a raising before that time also. The event of a raising itself is referred to as a "rapture". However some present the idea that there are to be 2 general raptures around the time Christ comes: That Christ will not only have a second coming but also a third coming around that time (before the millennium). This concept of a hidden middle coming of Christ and raising only certain people is referred to by them as "The Rapture".

Those teaching this doctrine (which is gaining in popularity) propose that there will be a seven year tribulation period (I will come to this) before his second (third) coming. Some say that he will come and take the righteous before the seven years and others after three and a half years.

Almost all the Scriptural support quoted for this idea rests in proving the resurrection itself (which isn't in dispute by those not supporting the idea). So this first part of the "evidence" for the pre-rapture concept is like trying to prove that 15-year-olds are too young to drive, by proving that roads exist. Yet a couple of things written in these texts do bear consideration, as there could be some confusion derived from those two statements. I will quote them as a block, and address them all collectively. (This collection were all the New Testament references quoted in the Wikipedia for support, under the subject of the Rapture).

"Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)

"For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever." (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17)

"He [Christ] will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be formed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself." (Philippians 3:21)

"In my Father's house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2–3)

"It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left." (Luke 17:30-35)

"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven." (Mark 13:26-27)

In regard these statements I think it important to set forth the events that are to soon transpire as recorded in Scripture. We have a thousand year period referred to as "the millennium (thousand)", that will commence at Christ's coming to set up a kingdom. At that coming he will destroy the wicked (who will be automatically consumed by his presence). He will take the righteous with him and they will reign in his kingdom. Yet in spite of simplistic comments of sheep and goats we still have people who go on living during the millennium (those who were neither righteous enough to go with him {sheep} nor wicked enough to be destroyed at his coming {goats})(Rev 20:3 & 7-8).

So as some will be left during the millennium and some will be raised at that time, talk of two women grinding etc and one being taken and one left, doesn't prove a pre-rapture. Nor do any of these other texts merely making mention of a resurrection.

Some confusion may exist in that Mark refers to gathering his elect from "the uttermost part of heaven" also. Yet the Scriptures clearly state that many righteous dead were resurrected at the time of Christ (for starters) (Matt 27:52). So, naturally, there are already righteous resurrected people in heaven. Therefore this can't be used to prove a pre-rapture around the time of his second coming, either.

I will quote one other New Testament Scripture that I have seen quoted tongue-in-cheek in support of this concept.

"After this I looked, and, see, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter." Rev 4:1

It is claimed that John here represents the church being taken up to heaven for the rapture. However if that were true then this should be written when it is talking just before the opening of the 7th seal (the millennium). Secondly and thirdly not only is there nothing to support such an interpretationn of this verse, but plainly John doesn't represent the church in the rest of the Book of Revelation; thus opposing such an interpretation.

So what does this theory all stem from?

I'll come to that in Part II

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blame for Sin/Crime - Are there true Victims?

There has been a large swing back to revenge mentality within society of recent decades. Where there had been a swing in the late 60's early 70's to forgiveness of those committing crimes, it has now gone to the opposite extreme. A shame man can't find the happy medium. But this has increased the mentality of what I would term "globalised blaming". This is where we take a crime and find someone to put all the blame on.

This makes life very black and white. It makes life into a straight line with wrong at one end and right at the other, where you have to be at either extreme end. The Pharasees used this same logic in accusing Christ and his disciples of offences against the law of Moses. The law of Moses made outward action the way to judge guilt. But the gospel of Christ makes the feelings of the heart the main issue. It also takes into account intent (ie thoughts of the mind). Suddenly we have 3 dimensional shades rather than a black and white line.

A person who has committed adultery that is a non-member can be baptised instantly, but a member having committed adultery, and ex-communicated, can't. Considering the crime is exactly the same, why a different judgement?

Because the act of opposing the feelings of your heart, with full knowledge, to such a degree, requires time for purging. Yet the physical act is exactly the same. So true judgement requires far more than an observation of physical activity. One of my favorite scriptures is Isa 11:3 where it says that Christ won't judge after the seeing of the eyes nor the hearing of the ears.

This heart judging and taking intent into account may sound impressive, but it makes true judgement awfully hard for us to do. Man has the tendency to hear of a terrible act done by someone and feel ill against the proposed perpetrator. Then there is also the problem that we assume a/some perfectly uninvolved victim/s.

From the time we are young we get the concept of the "baddies" VS the "goodies". Where a crime occurs we look for the "baddy": The one who is 100% to blame for all the ill - who is supposed to die in the end of the movie. And the other/s are the "goodies" who have no blame whatsoever, but are heroes deserving medals.

However life isn't like that either, in the vast majority of cases. Naturally a baby has no input into a crime committed against it. But some time while 7-years-old we begin to arrive at the point of recognising sin merely by being presented with it (thus we need baptism at 8). If we listen to our heart from that time forth we can know what is good and what isn't. From that time forth any act we do of an evil nature will produce some dark ukky feeling in our spirit, whether we note it in our minds or not.

Unfortunately some well intending people may wish to advise victims that they had no responsibility for the act, where they may have had some input. This may please the adviser and give them good feelings about themselves being a great help, but isn't productive for the victim. It leaves the victim unable to address their true feelings. Thus the ukky feeling remains and the person can't move on as successfully as they could if they got rid of it. Also these sins must be repented of to be cleansed by Christ. How can they be if people are telling them there was no sin on their part? Next, the sin, or some related sin, is very likely to re-occur, because the person hasn't changed their viewpoint.

Some may feel this is a bit of a slight on victims - to accuse them of some wrong. However blame is a huge thing that must be considered very carefully. For example the actions of the Nephites and those Israelites in Israel is stated to have contributed to their enemies attacking them. Thus blame doesn't even need to be as obvious as someone having done anything physically directed at the act to have some input. A person may say things that are sexually oriented, that may have contributed to putting the idea in someone else's head of committing a sexual act upon them (for example). A person may wear clothing that suggests they are that type. A person may be proud because of their wealth and talk of their riches, which promotes the idea to someone else of robbing them. A person may partly cause a crime purely by their attitude. Just looking at the crime and assuming the victim had no input is unwise. As would equally be assuming that they MUST have had some input.

In regard all this the problem that man can have is the tendency to decide there is a 100% of blame that must be shared among contributors. We then would have a system where each person's guilt would be relevant to how many others we could find to blame, and what percentage of the blame we pass on to each.

However this is false. Each person is 100% to blame for their input only. The input of others only bears relevance in regard how that affected what we would consider each person's crime to be. For example an act of taking someone else's TV home wouldn't be theft if the other person gave permission. Thus we have to look at the involvement of others to consider what each has done. Some psychologists/psychiatrists get a bit paranoid with such talk, and say it is "externalising". However the involvement of the proposed victim must be considered to know what occurred for righteous judgement. Externalising can only be the case where a person knowingly does the wrong thing under the circumstance, and makes it someone else's fault that they did so.

Much and all as we may not care to admit it, the reality is that almost any crime could be stated to have been committed by almost everyone in the society, to some degree. So often we hear such things as "who is the most important person in the world?" The assumption is "you." Do you always fervently challenge this thinking? And sexual promiscuity; how actively do you oppose it? Bad laws that give too much power to governments and Police; what about that? Do you laugh at lustful innuendo? Showing cleavage and short/tight skirts/clothing? The idea that it is good to have more than others? Offenders come from the society and are partially a product of its values.

Again I stress that it isn't a case of distributing the 100% blame. But recognising contributors to the crime/sin. When viewing these concepts we are left to consider how many 100% victims are there?

Yet at the same time this doesn't detract from the fact that the perpetrator is still 100% to blame for their actions, according to their heart and intent.

Well did Moroni say, "...see that ye judge not wrongfully; for with that same judgement ye judge ye shall be judged."