Why did God lead four disciples to record the ministry of Jesus? Why does the book of Revelation start with a quick overview of end-time events before revealing different camera angles in the mini-visions? It’s because an important, multi-scene story cannot be contained in one view. Either the big picture gets lost in the plethora of details or important details get overlooked in the big story line.
No one book and no one prophecy has it all. This is why the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, inspired the biblical writers to use specific wording and phrases so that we could notice the commonalities and therefore the scriptural connections. We are meant to follow the connections all the way through until we see the complete picture.
It’s much like putting together a section of a jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces you connect together for that area of the puzzle picture, the clearer that scene becomes. As we saw in a previous blog, instead of matching colors and shapes, we use phrases and key words. The connecting phrases signal that passages are talking about the same event. One passage will have some things that are not in the other passage. Together they expand our understanding about the prophetic event.
That’s how the Holy Spirit designed it so we can understand end-time prophecy. It’s not open to anyone’s private interpretation. Once we follow enough connections, we see that the Bible actually interprets itself. It begins to confirm everything. If we ignore the connections or don’t follow them through to the end, then we end up with misconceptions and unbiblical views.
If we follow the connections, they will build the case, and it will have no gaping holes and no contradictions. No passage will need to be conveniently ignored because it doesn’t fit the scene or event. If someone else comes up with a different interpretation, it’s easily disproven because it won’t connect anywhere. It will break the Spirit-inspired linkage. We must exhaust all the connections to see the complete picture.
Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. He’s given us His revealed Word. If we don’t see it clearly, its just because we haven’t followed the connections in the whole counsel of His Word. Or to put it another way, we haven’t had eyes that see. We haven’t been alert, watching for the telltale wording and pursuing the divine connections.
This is what Peter was talking about when he warned us not to forget the one thing we need to know about God’s prophetic plan: with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).
Making these connections from the Word is how we could show you the vital and foundational connection between the rapture and the Day of the Lord in an earlier blog (5/12/22). In the weeks ahead, we will continue building upon that connection so you can see how our understanding of the end-times expands quite quickly, using the common element that forms the connection, seeing the added element, discovering more truths by extension, and accumulating the confirmations.
This is why you don’t have to take our word for it. But you do have to take the Scripture’s word for it. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Here’s a question for you. How well does the Church today understand the Lord’s return? Amazingly, we have to define that term because, like so much in our culture, the phrase has been redefined in multiple ways. We’re talking about when Jesus comes to receive His Bride at the rapture. More specifically, the foundational apostles taught that the second coming of Christ was not a separate event from the rapture. They saw it as a singular event.
In the next few blogs we will be looking at why this fundamental truth has become clouded, and in some cases, totally lost from certain views. It’s time to make the crooked places straight.
When Jesus told His disciples in John 14 that He was leaving, He told them that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s House of many mansions in Heaven. They instantly got the reference because this was part of the bridal traditions of their day.
When a man asked for a woman’s hand in marriage from her father, and the agreement was made, the man and woman were considered married. The man would then go back to his household and prepare their new home. He promised to return again and take his bride there when all was ready.
The first crooked place that needs to be made clear is the purpose of His coming. The context of John 14 is Jesus preparing the disciples for His death at the crucifixion and His subsequent resurrection. He wanted to make sure they understood that this was not the end of the story. It only signaled that the first part of God’s prophetic plan of redemption was about to be finished. The New Covenant was about to be established in grace and truth.
The interim time—the next two great Days or 2,000 years—would be spent building His Body, establishing His Church, and wooing His Bride. He charged His disciples with preaching the Gospel and making disciples in order to bring as many people into that blessed union as possible.
So the purpose of His second coming is to gather His Bride to Him and take us all back to our prepared place and our future calling. When He comes, He will bring the dead in Christ with Him. They are the believers who have died and have gone to Heaven to await the fullness of time—the end of this age.
He will descend to the Mt. of Olives, the place of His crucifixion and resurrection. The power of His presence will split the mountain and create another Red Sea moment, making a way of escape for the Jews who have finally recognized Jesus as their Savior. They shall go to their prepared place on the earth and be fed for 3½ years.
At the same time, the Lion of Judah will roar, “Arise” and the bodies of the dead in Christ will arise from the dust of the earth and be transformed into immortal bodies. He will roar “Shine” and the bodies of those who are alive when He comes will be changed in a twinkling of an eye. Together, all of us will reenact our Lord’s ascension and return to Heaven, to our prepared place.
This is what the Scriptures reveal. Seems simple enough. So how did it get so clouded and complicated? We’ll look at more crooked places ahead. Stay tuned.
How Scripture Interprets Scripture
How do we fit the pieces of the end-time prophetic puzzle together? How do we match the markings or colors? We said in the last blog that we let Scripture interpret Scripture. But how does that work exactly?
We follow the prophetic connections found in the prophecies, compliments of the Holy Spirit. The connections are nearly identical words or phrases found in two passages. It’s His signal that the passages go together. Each passage sheds some light on the particular topic of the prophecy or the event being foretold.
We see this, for example, in the connection of being raised up in John 6 to the description of the rapture 1 Thessalonians 4 where the dead in Christ rise first. Both passages have the common element of resurrection that forms the connection.
The connection then yields an added element: more information is provided that expands on what we know about that end-time event. For instance, we learn that once we are raptured at the sound of the trumpet, we shall be with our Lord always. Paul continues teaching about our Lord’s coming in the next chapter. In chapter 5 he informs us that because we are sons and daughters of the Light, God did not appoint us to experience the wrath of that Day.
This, in turn, leads us to another truth that comes by extension. In this case, the truth is not stated directly in either passage, but by extension from other prior connections, so that we know the truth is valid. For example, John says we are raised up at the last Day. When Paul continues teaching about our Lord’s coming in the next chapter, we learn that the last Day is also called the Day of the Lord because both Paul and Jesus were describing the same event.
In Thessalonians, Paul calls it the Day of the Lord. By extension we can now say that the rapture occurs at the start of the Day of the Lord, the last Day in God’s prophetic great Week.
This gives us confirmations that increase as more and more connections are studied. For example, the last Day is obviously the last day of God’s great Week, which is the 7th Day (when counting from Adam). Hosea 6:1-2 connects this to the 3rd Day (when counting from the Jews’ rejection of Christ at His first coming). This expansion and confirmation means we can now make even more connections about the rapture and the Day of the Lord because that Day has many, many signs associated with it. That’s how we can know that the rapture cannot be an any-moment, signless, sort-of coming before Christ’s second coming.
In short, the Holy Spirit has built into God’s Word the standard of truth set by God that at least 2 to 3 witnesses ultimately establish the truth. So now we have four practical and simple questions we can ask when reading God’s Word so that we let Scripture interpret Scripture.
The End of the Tour
At the end of John’s encounter with Christ that is recorded in the book of Revelation, an angel gives him a final tour. First they see the new heaven and new earth. John notices there is no sea. Next he sees the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The City is the Bride of Christ.
Then comes a declaration from Heaven. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 22:3-4). That is the awesome wonder of the Day of God, the Perfect Day.
Then He who sat on the throne declares, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Talk about an overwhelming assignment! Good thing John has the Holy Spirit within him to direct his effort and bring everything back to his memory.
Next comes another astounding announcement: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son (Rev. 22:6-8).
We were told in the first chapter of the book that the Revelation is given to show His servants the things that must take place shortly. So how can He declare “It is done?” For one thing, God has already declared the end from the beginning. And God’s Word always accomplishes what it is sent to do (Isaiah 55:11).
What we’ve seen unfolding in Revelation shall come to pass. There’s no way around it, for the seal of the Lord shall perform it (Isaiah 9:8). It doesn’t matter whether or not the people of the earth believe it. This is what shall come to pass. That is why God then directs John, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.”
The tour concludes with Jesus affirming that He will indeed come a second time. Now we know that we shall all see it unfold literally. Then Jesus issues a stern warning.
“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
So how do we keep from adding or subtracting from this prophecy, and the many others throughout God’s Word concerning the end-times? We let Scripture interpret Scripture. But how does that work, exactly? It’s a lot like saying the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces scattered throughout the “box.” All we have to do is match the markings or colors and fit the shapes together. It’s a nice analogy, but again, how do we do this practically speaking?
Glad you asked. We’ll discover the answer in the next blog! Stay tuned!