Most of us in the church have been taught that the descent of Christ to gather the church is a “signless” event. Invariably, one verse is used to substantiate this position: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2).
Is it true that God is relying on one apostle and one figure of speech to communicate that Christ’s return for the church is a “signless” event?
Or is it Satan who wants us to isolate one apostle and isolate one verse and then misunderstand one figure of speech, leading to the wrong conclusion?
How would Christ respond to these questions?
How would the apostles Peter, Paul, and John respond to these questions?
How would the Old Testament respond to these questions?
When the apostle Paul prophesied, “the day of the Lord” will come “like a thief in the night,” what did he communicate to the church?
Is Paul introducing brand-new concepts, or is he referring to concepts already established by biblical prophets that precede him?
How can we as the church understand Paul’s reference to a “thief” unless we look to where “thief” is used relative to end times?
In the Book of Revelation, Christ prophesied about his return for Israel: “Behold, I come like a thief!” (Rev. 16:15). Christ spoke this prophecy in the context of Armageddon, which is “the battle on the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14).
If Christ’s return for Israel is like a “thief,” is Christ’s return for Israel a “signless” event? No. The Apocalypse is not a “signless” event.
If Christ did not use the word “thief” to mean a “signless” event, then how can we as his church justify using “thief” to mean a “signless” event?
What did Christ communicate when he said that he would return for Israel like a “thief”?
The prophecy spoken by Christ has a precedent. Isaiah prophesied of Israel’s salvation and how that salvation would be instantaneous.
Moreover the multitude of thy strangers [enemies] shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. (Isa. 29:5, 6 KJV)
Isaiah spoke of time and marked dramatic signs that shall accompany the second coming of Christwhen he returns “like a thief.” Herein, Christ’s reference to a thief speaks not of a “signless” return, but of the sudden surprise of his return, and how those who are in spiritual darkness will be overtaken, and how those who embrace spiritual light are commanded to “watch” (Rev. 16:15 KJV).
Like Christ, Paul’s reference to a “thief” speaks of time, not signs, and addresses those who will be overtaken (1 Thess. 5:3), and those who are commanded to “watch” (1 Thess. 5:6 KJV):
Now, brothers, about times and dates [not signs] we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:1, 2)
Christ’s sudden return will not overtake those who have embraced spiritual light. A thief arrives as a sudden surprise and overtakes those who are in spiritual darkness. These prophetic truths apply to Christ’s return for the church and for Israel.
Like Christ and Paul, Peter’s reference to a “thief” speaks of the sudden nature of Heaven’s intervention and the drama that will follow:
“[T]he day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10 KJV).
In their prophecies, Christ, Paul, and Peter did not equate “thief” with a “signless” event. In essence, there is no scriptural justification to use the symbol of a “thief” to claim that an event is “signless.”
The religious tradition of the “signless” return has served only to cast a shadow upon the Scriptures; there is no need to be in subjection to this tradition. Now, prophecies that speak to the church about Christ’s return can open up to us.
That said, this text explores both the Old and New Testaments and ends up with one inescapable conclusion: just as dramatic signs shall mark the instantaneous arrival of Christ for Israel, so shall dramatic signs mark the instantaneous arrival of Christ for the church.
In the light of Scripture, the true nature the “signless” return is understood for what it is: this dogma is nothing more than a religious tradition masquerading as the truth, causing us to neglect prophecies that directly apply to us.
Why would Satan want Christ’s church to believe the lie of the “signless” return?
The answer concerns Heaven’s commands. Paul issued the command to “watch.” Without knowledge of Heaven’s signs, the church cannot watch for Heaven’s signs.
This text presents prophecies given by Christ, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, Matthew, Luke, Peter, John, and Paul.
THE APOSTLE PETER AND THE PROPHET JOEL
When Paul stated “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” he was not the only apostle who spoke of the “day of the Lord.” There were two apostles (witnesses), not one, who specifically prophesied of the “day of the Lord”: Paul and Peter.
On the first day of the churchPentecostPeter stood up and addressed the crowd.
[T]his is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:1621)
Who are those who call on the “name of the Lord”?
Who are those who “will be saved”?
When will “the sun be turned to darkness and the moon to blood”? “Before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord”the same “day of the Lord” spoken by Paul.
Are we in Christ’s church supposed to believe that two apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who specifically spoke of the “day of the Lord,” are referring to two entirely different concepts?
Why couldn’t Peter and Paul be two witnesses given to us by God who are referring to the same concept, only providing different pieces of the same puzzle to help us understand more of the same picture?
On the first day of the church, Peter spoke to the crowd and referenced Joel. Why?
Why did Peter quote Joel?
Why did Christ quote Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth? Because it was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Why did Paul quote Isaiah in the context of speaking in tongues? Because it was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Why did Christ quote Daniel in the context of the Antichrist? Because it would be the ultimate fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.
Who established the precedent to help the church understand why a New Testament apostle would quote an Old Testament prophet? Christ.
Peter quoted Joel on Pentecost because it was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (and it would be the ultimate fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy).
To witness the magnitude of what Peter accomplished on the day of Pentecost, the prophecy first given by Joel is now presented. What Peter quoted from Joel’s prophecy is capitalized.
The following is taken from the second chapter of Joel:
And afterward, I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON ALL PEOPLE. YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS WILL PROPHESY, YOUR OLD MEN WILL DREAM DREAMS, YOUR YOUNG MEN WILL SEE VISIONS. EVEN ON MY SERVANTS, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT IN THOSE DAYS. I WILL SHOW WONDERS IN THE HEAVENS AND ON THE EARTH, BLOOD AND FIRE AND BILLOWS OF SMOKE. THE SUN WILL BE TURNED TO DARKNESS AND THE MOON TO BLOOD BEFORE THE COMING OF THE GREAT AND DREADFUL DAY OF THE LORD. AND EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:2832)
When Peter quoted Joel, he stopped before he quoted “for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls.”
Why did Peter stop at the semicolon?
Why didn’t he at least finish the sentence?
Why didn’t he read the whole prophecy given by Joel?
What is Peter telling the church on the first day of the church?
When these questions are answered, the harmony between the Old and New Testaments is revealed.
Why did Peter stop where he did?
Truly, on the first day of the church, Peter carved out that section of Joel’s prophecy that directly applied to the time of the church. Peter marked the signs that initiated the church (“I will pour out my Spirit on all people”); he marked the signs that mark the presence of the church on Earth (“prophesy,” “visions,” etc.); finally, Peter marked the signs that mark the gathering of the church into Heaven (when “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord”). It’s the MYSTERY revealed.
The MYSTERY unfolded with dramatic signs on the Feast of Pentecost, the MYSTERY would be made known by God through divine signs, and the MYSTERY will end with dramatic signs on the Feast of Trumpets.
Hundreds of years prior to Peter’s declaration on Pentecost, God had already established the irrefutable signs that would mark the MYSTERY. Not one Old Testament prophet understood it. It was Peter who made it known to the “world” on the holy day of Pentecost.
On the first day of the church, Peter did not speak about “Mount Zion” and “Jerusalem” because that part of Joel’s prophecy is about the future of the twelve tribes: “Israel.” This is the time of great distress foretold by Jeremiah; it is “the time of Jacob’s [Israel’s] trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7 KJV). Jeremiah foretold precisely what Joel foretold: there will be “deliverance” for Israel“among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” This is what Peter didn’t quote because it applied not to the church but to Israel.
What is the significance of Peter’s reference to Joel?
Regarding Christ’s descent for the church, God has given the church two witnesses: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Therefore, it is impossible that God is relying upon one New Testament apostle (Paul) to be the single witness to communicate the “picture” of Christ’s return for the church.
This text now turns to another apostle: John. What divine light did John give us regarding the signs that mark Christ’s descent for the church?
THE APOSTLE JOHN AND THE PROPHET DANIEL
When Peter prophesied, “the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,” he wasn’t the only apostle who spoke of these signs. There were two apostles (witnesses), not one, who spoke of the sun turning dark and the moon turning blood red: Peter and John. John’s prophecy marked the same signs as Peteras well as other celestial and earthly signs.
I [John] watched as he [Christ] opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red. (Rev. 6:12)
Are we in Christ’s church supposed to believe that two apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who prophesied of the sun turning dark (black) and the moon turning blood red, are referring to two entirely different events?
Why couldn’t John and Peter be two witnesses given to us by God who are referring to the same event, only providing different pieces of the same puzzle to help us understand more of the same picture?
What will happen to the church after the sun turns dark and the moon turns blood red?
Peter said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How is the church saved? Paul said it will be gathered off the Earth into the clouds with Christ. What is the ultimate destination?
Look at the vision Heaven gave to John:
After this I [John] looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robeswho are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation [not wrath]; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:917)
Who is the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb”?
Who are they who “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”?
The Gentiles? The Jews? Or are they the saved in Christ?
John and Peter both spoke of the signs that would mark the time of salvation (deliverance) for the saved in Christ. The multitude described by John is the same multitude described by Peter: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
John’s revelation added a piece to the divine puzzle by expounding upon the revelation first spoken by Peter: “The sky [filled with those who call on the name of the Lord] receded like a scroll, rolling up [to Heaven]” (Rev. 6:14).
John is in agreement with Peter, and both are in agreement with Joel: the sun will turn dark (black) and the moon will turn blood red when Christ arrives to save those who call on the name of the Lord.
After the sixth seal opens, what will be heard in Heaven?
“SALVATION BELONGS TO OUR GOD, WHO SITS ON THE THRONE, AND TO THE LAMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (REV. 7:10)
This is what we as Christ’s church will proclaim when we stand before the throne of Heaven!!
This is what Peter meant on Pentecost when he said we will be “saved.”
It is John who identified the chronology of these end-time events.
1. The church shall be “saved” and gathered into Heaven (Rev. 6:1214; 7:917).
2. The time of “wrath” shall follow. Included in this time of wrath is a seven-year prophecy: the world shall witness three and a half years of God’s prophets and then three and a half years of Satan’s prophets.
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. . . . The beast [the Antichrist] was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. . . . Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. (Rev. 11:3; 13:5, 11)
This seven-year prophecy of John was first given by the prophet Daniel. Known as the seventieth “seven,” this is the final seven years of Daniel’s prophecy decreed for Daniel’s people, which is Israel (Dan. 9:24).
He [the Antichrist] will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven [seven years].” In the middle of the “seven” [after three and a half years] he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him [at the time of the Apocalypse] (Dan. 9:27).
3. Finally, like Daniel, John marked the culmination of this time: the Apocalypse. Christ shall descend from Heaven with the church to destroy the armies of Satan and rescue the remnant of Israel.
They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kingsand with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. (Rev. 17:14)
I [John] saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. [Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints (Rev. 19:8).] Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, “so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. (Rev. 19:1121)
John’s prophecy expounded upon prophecies first given by the Old Testament prophetswhich include Zechariah and Joel.
Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zech. 14:35 KJV)
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. . . . [F]or on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls. (Joel 3:16 KJV; 2:32)
According to the prophets and apostles, the coming of Christ has very distinct characteristics, for there are two stages that are separated by time.
This text now turns back to the apostle Paul. What piece of the prophetic puzzle did Paul provide when he referred to “the day of the Lord”?
THE APOSTLES PAUL AND JOHN, AND THE PROPHET ISAIAH
What did Paul communicate when he said “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”?
Firstly, Paul did not say Christ will return like a thief in the night, but that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Why did Paul refer to “the day of the Lord”?
What is “the day of the Lord”?
Is it the single day of Christ’s return?
Or does it refer to a span of time that applies to Heaven’s intervention upon Earth?
The Old Testament prophets give God’s precedentGod’s answer. Isaiah (among other prophets1) testified that “the day of the Lord” is not one day but a span of time that speaks of God’s intervention into earthly affairs.
Why would Paul refer to “the day of the Lord”? Because God’s intervention into earthly affairs shall begin with Christ’s descent from Heaven to gather the church into Heaven to save it from the wrath to come.
To set the stage to understand Paul’s prophecy about “the day of the Lord,” this text moves back in time to the precedent established by God. What follows are prophecies given by Isaiah:
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the Lord is cominga cruel day, with wrath and fierce angerto make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. (Isa. 13:69)
Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: . . . And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. (Isa. 2:1012, 1921 KJV)
The “day of the Lord” described by Isaiah is the same “day of the Lord” described by the New Testament apostles: it is the prophecy of Heaven’s intervention.
The prophecies given by Isaiah bare a striking resemblance to John’s prophecy in the Book of Revelation because John marked the onset of the day of the Lord:
I [John] watched as he [Christ] opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:1217)
This wrath described by John is the same wrath described by Isaiah.
Without question, the day of the Lord is the span of time marking Heaven’s intervention. The Old Testament prophets clearly spoke of this, but it wasn’t until Heaven gave revelation to the New Testament apostles about the church that the fullness of this intervention was made known.
When the sixth seal opens, the Lord Jesus Christ will gather God’s possessions, and the sky will be filled with souls marked by Heaven. Then the sky will recede upward like a scroll, and the church shall ascend to Heaven. The remaining population will erupt into chaos, seeking to be hidden from the God whom they rejected. (Whereas the sixth seal announces the coming wrath, the seventh seal initiates its actual commencement.)
This wrath spoken by John in the Book of Revelation is the same wrath spoken by Paul; it is the wrath the sons of God are saved from: “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the deadJesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:10).
Jesus Christ shall rescue the church “from” the coming wrath. “From” in the Greek language is apo and means “away from,” denoting “motion from the exterior.”2 In other words, the church is not just protected from the wrath while “sitting” on the Earth, but is saved “away from” the wrath by literally being drawn up away from the Earth’s surface: “motion from the exterior” of the Earth to Heaven, which is the gathering.
Wrath, which the church is saved from (Rom. 5:9, 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9), is announced (Rev. 6:17) after the sky rolls up to Heaven (Rev. 6:14).
For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand? (Rev. 6:17)
Wrath actually begins after we are gathered into Heaven; it begins after the seventh seal opens, when the first trumpet of wrath sounds.
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (Rev. 8:7)
This is wrath.
If we are already gathered in Heaven before the first trumpet of wrath sounds, how can we at the same time be on the Earth going through the wrath of the trumpet judgments?
The seventh trumpet cannot sound until after the sixth trumpet sounds.
The sixth trumpet cannot sound until after the fifth trumpet sounds.
The fifth trumpet cannot sound until after the fourth trumpet sounds.
The fourth trumpet cannot sound until after the third trumpet sounds.
The third trumpet cannot sound until after the second trumpet sounds.
The second trumpet cannot sound until after the first trumpet sounds.
The first trumpet cannot sound until after the seventh seal opens.
Wrath begins when the seventh seal opens.
The church is in Heaven before the seventh seal opens.
The prophecy states that when Christ appears in clouds, we will be transformed in a flash (1 Cor. 15:51-54)not left on Earth going through the trumpet judgments.
In contrast to the church gathered into Heaven, those who remain on the planet will understand the impending wrath.
How do we know this?
John’s prophecy reveals the collective voice of those left behind: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
If the religious tradition of the “signless” return is true, and no one on Earth can see Christ descend from Heaven, and the church simply disappears, then how could those left on Earth know “the great day of their wrath has come?”
Why would those who reject Christ say, “hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb”?
Those who are left on Earth must awake to Heaven’s judgment and Christ’s presence. How? God shall mark the onset of the day of the Lord with divine signs:
There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth. (Rev. 6:12, 13)
[Christ] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him (Rev. 1:7).
This is the testimony of God: Those who are on the Earth will see and understand Heaven’s divine power and the presence of Christ and then will recognize their own reality and fate.
Without question, before Heaven’s judgment strikes the Earth, divine signs will mark the divine threshold: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.”
The belief that Christ’s arrival to save the church is a “signless” event is rooted in religious historynot in the Scriptures. Our religious ancestors neglected the harmony between the Old and New Testaments, misunderstood one figure of speech, and consequently were deceivedand the deception continues to this day.
For those of us in the body of Christ who hold to the supreme authority of Scripture, there is no intent to create traditions or stories, but to be worthy of the divinely inspired story already written. Let us not silence the witnesses God gave us who prophesied about “the day of the Lord.” The testimony of God stands: signsnot the absence of themshall mark Heaven’s timetable.
Heaven gave revelation to the New Testament apostles about the day of the Lord to inform the church about this future time.
Here is Paul’s prophecy:
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people [who are not in the body of Christ] are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly [from wrath], as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day [the day of the Lord] should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert [watch] and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath [during Heaven’s intervention on Earth] but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (1 Thess. 5:110)
This prophecy is not speaking about signs, nor is it speaking exclusively about Christ’s return for the church. Rather, it speaks of Heaven’s intervention and the destiny of those within the body of Christ and the destiny of those not within the body of Christ. When Christ descends from Heaven to gather the church, the opposing fates shall be delivered concurrently.
With regard to the church, Paul said: “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise [overtake] you like a thief.” The word “surprise” (or, overtake) means, “to lay hold of, [to] seize suddenly, [and to] come suddenly upon.”3
The day of the Lord will not overtake the church like a thief. Why? “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Wrath will not lay hold upon the church because of the salvation of the church.
What salvation? The same salvation Paul described just a few sentences earlier in his letter to the Thessalonians: the gathering in the clouds when we “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). Salvation means deliverance.
When in our religious history did unsound doctrine regarding Christ’s return for the church first emerge?
THE APOSTLES PAUL AND JOHN: DISMISSED
When in our religious history did unsound doctrine regarding Christ’s return for the church first emerge? The first century.
To set the stage for this, the state of the church in the late in the first century must be understood.
Paul spoke of believers that abandoned him: “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” (2 Tim. 1:15).
John spoke of church leadership that slandered him: “I [John] wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church” (3 John 9, 10). John revealed the mind-set of a church leader so twisted that he rejected not only an apostle but also cast Christ’s followers out of the church.
Diotrephes rejected John. Asia rejected Paul.
Paul specifically identified unsound doctrine being taught in the first century regarding Christ’s return for the church. Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, wrote the following:
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. (2 Tim. 2:1618)
Hymenaeus and Philetus “wandered away from the truth” and taught error about the “resurrection.” What resurrection? The same resurrection spoken of by Paul throughout the letters to the church: the resurrection of those who died in Christ.
The apostles Paul and John were dismissed by church leadership and unsound doctrine followed. How pathetic! This is our own religious ancestry.
Why would God document this revolting picture from our spiritual past?
What is to be learned from this historical record?
We within the church must be honest with ourselves and examine what we have assumed to be true. This must include the dogma of the “signless” rapture.
When Paul introduced his prophecy to the Thessalonians by saying, “Now, brothers, about times and dates,” he informed them what he was about to address: time (not signs).
“While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly.” It is not “signless” destruction; it is sudden destruction.
Paul is not speaking of the “signless” nature of Heaven’s intervention, but the sudden nature of Heaven’s intervention.
It is not a “signless” rapture; it is a sudden rapture:
We will not all sleep, but we will all be changedin a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
How could it have happened that we ended up believing and teaching a “signless” rapture?
Why should we just accept the corruption of Scripture handed to us by our religious ancestors?
The dogma of the “signless” arrival of Christ is nothing more than godless chatter and this teaching has spread like gangrene.
What if everyone in Christ’s church actually believed the lie of the “signless” return?
What would happen to our minds when the divine signs appear throughout the planet?
The church would still be waiting for the “signless” event that will never happen. Or, the church could become fearful. This is always Satan’s will for us: paralyzed with fear.
Satan has spent countless years covering up the signs that shall accompany Christ’s descent from Heaven for church. Let our generation be remembered as the generation that ended the cover-up.
This text now turns to prophecies spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the references he made to the Old Testament prophets.
JESUS CHRIST AND DANIEL, ISAIAH, AND MOSES
The day of the Lord refers not only to Christ’s arrival for the church but also Christ’s arrival for Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets foretold what would become of Israel. Elements of these prophecies can be found in the very words of Christ in Matthew 24.
To set the stage to view Christ’s prophecy in the Gospel of Matthew, this text moves back to Old Testament times. What follows are prophecies given by Daniel, Isaiah, and Moses, respectively. These prophets foretold of the following: the Antichrist, the time of wrath, the signs that mark Christ’s return to the Holy Land, and the gathering of the remnant of Israel.
What Christ referenced during his ministry is capitalized.
He [the Antichrist] will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven” [seven years]. In the middle of the “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him [the Antichrist]. (Dan. 9:27)
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people [Daniel’s people: Israel]: AND THERE SHALL BE A TIME OF TROUBLE, SUCH AS NEVER WAS SINCE THERE WAS A NATION EVEN TO THAT SAME TIME: AND AT THAT TIME THY PEOPLE [ISRAEL] SHALL BE DELIVERED, every one that shall be found written in the book. (Dan. 12:1 KJV)
FOR THE STARS OF HEAVEN AND THE CONSTELLATIONS THEREOF SHALL NOT GIVE THEIR LIGHT: THE SUN SHALL BE DARKENED IN HIS GOING FORTH, AND THE MOON SHALL NOT CAUSE HER LIGHT TO SHINE. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. THEREFORE I WILL SHAKE THE HEAVENS, AND THE EARTH SHALL REMOVE OUT OF HER PLACE, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. (Isa. 13:1013 KJV)
In that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O ISRAELITES, WILL BE GATHERED up one by one. And in that day A GREAT TRUMPET will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem. (Isa. 27:12, 13)
That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and GATHER THEE FROM ALL THE NATIONS, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. IF ANY OF THINE BE DRIVEN OUT UNTO THE OUTMOST PARTS OF HEAVEN, FROM THENCE WILL THE LORD THY GOD GATHER THEE, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it. (Deut. 30:35 KJV)
During his ministry, Christ also prophesied of what would become of Israel. In a single prophecy about his second coming to Israel, the Son of God spoke forth the collective voice of the three Old Testament prophets referenced above.
Christ prophesied of the Antichrist, the time of wrath, the signs that would mark his return to the Holy Land, and the gathering of the remnant of Israel. He introduced his prophecy by referring to Daniel and the final years of prophecy that lead up to the Apocalypse. What Christ referenced from the Old Testament is capitalized.
When ye therefore shall see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, spoken of by DANIEL THE PROPHET, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: FOR THEN SHALL BE GREAT TRIBULATION, SUCH AS WAS NOT SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD TO THIS TIME, NO, NOR EVER SHALL BE. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall THE SUN BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON SHALL NOT GIVE HER LIGHT, AND THE STARS SHALL FALL FROM HEAVEN, AND THE POWERS OF THE HEAVENS SHALL BE SHAKEN: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a GREAT SOUND OF A TRUMPET [THE GREAT TRUMPET4], and they shall GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS [OF THE EARTH], FROM ONE END OF HEAVEN TO THE OTHER. (Matt. 24:2131 KJV)
Daniel, Isaiah, and Moses testify that this prophecy speaks of gathering Israelnot the church.
THE DAY OF THE LORD: OUR TESTIMONY
The Old and New Testaments speak with one voice: “the day of the Lord” is the Lord’s time to intervene to save the church and Israel, and bring justice upon the wicked. It is an intervention that is marked with unmistakable signsfrom start to finish.
Let the testimony of the Scriptures be our testimony, and let our faithfulness on Earth continue right up to the moment we are transformed.
1. Heaven’s revelation about “the day of the Lord” is found throughout the Old Testament: Isaiah (2:12; 13:6, 9), Ezekiel (13:5; 30:3), Joel (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), Amos (5:18, 20), Obadiah (15),
Zephaniah (1:7, 14), Zechariah (14:1), and Malachi (4:5).
2. E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 308.
3. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, 567.
4. “A great sound of a trumpet” is a figure of speech known as Hendiadys, where it is “not two things, but one,” (E. W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990], 1366. In essence, Christ referred to what Isaiah referred to: the great trumpet.