Various translations are used for Biblical quotations. KJV - King James Version NKJV - New King James Version NIV - New International Version NLT - New Living Translation
I want to read a wonderful verse found in Matthew 24. This is a fantastic verse. I want you to look at this really neat verse. Matthew 24:28 (KJV) This is really great! For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Now isn't that a fantastic verse? Doesn't that just get you? That's grand! If you can understand this verse you will comprehend Bible truth. Now, we're going to come back to that verse later.
I want to talk about the rapture. How many of you believe in the rapture? Yes, we all believe in the rapture. Rapture is taken to mean "the coming of Jesus." How many of you believe in the secret rapture? Well, that's another story, isn't it. That's what we're going to talk about today.
I went to the book store the other day, and that's one of my favorite places. Ah, the books! The trouble is, I didn't have any money. But I looked, and I wanted to see what were the best sellers, what people were buying and you wouldn't believe it. The best sellers: number one, number two, number three and so forth. They had the top twenty. And out of those top twenty, probably seven of eight of them were about the Second Coming of Christ. I mean, Armageddon, The Rapture, The End of Time, Last day events. That's what people were interested in. So, I thought I'd just better preach a sermon on that. So that's what were doing today.
Matthew 24: 7 (NIV) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
We're seeing that, aren't we. There are battles, skirmishes and ambushes every day. I turned on the television the other day, we happen to get CNN, which I enjoy, and they showed something I did not enjoy and that was soldiers killing people. I mean, the camera was focussed right in. They were kicking him in the head. The poor fellow didn't have any clothes on and they killed him and it was awful. "One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist," the saying goes, but the common denominator is death. Many soldiers are merely youngsters.
And then I got on my computer the other day and I got on the McDonald Road website and clicked on "General Conference" and it said, "Would you like to see a video of our church in Turkismania being destroyed?" I guess so, so I looked at it, and sure enough, the people were destroying our church. A long video of it. All because of religious prejudice. Islamic groups tearing down our Seventh-day Adventist church. It took then two weeks to do it. It was a strong church, but it's gone!
Troubles, wars, calamities. Fighting rages day and night through cease-fires around the world. On Belfast's streets, in Croatia and Bosnia, in Central America's jungles. Wars continue with people being killed every day. On any day soldiers are firing machine guns in 30 to 40 nations. Wars of liberation. Territorial disputes. Religious battles. In 1999 in Turkasmania, they bulldozed our Adventist church to the ground because of religious prejudice.
By the way, you don't mind a sermon os the Second Coming of Christ, do you? After all, we're Seventh-day Adventists, so that means that we believe in the Second Coming of Christ. We want to hear sermons about the nearness and the soon-coming of Jesus. Look at Matthew 24:12,13 (NIV) Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. I want to tell you, wickedness and sin is abounding. I got the February 14 edition of US News and World Report, and I read something that I had a hard time comprehending. I want to quote to you from page 50. Now, I'm going to read this. It states: "The numbers were shocking: Since the mid-1980's hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in the United States were reported to have died of AIDS, with a death rate four hundred times that of the general public." That is phenomenal! If even a small portion of that is factual, and I am told it is greater than it said, this is a tragedy of major proportions. Wickedness in high places. Now, I love my Roman Catholic friends. I have never met a bad Roman Catholic. I know a lot of very close friends that have been Catholic. I don't hold anything against them. But, my! That's a tragedy, isn't it? Let's talk a little bit about aids here.
Come over here to where the Bible talks about AIDS. Does the Bible talk about AIDS? Well, not by name. Come over to Revelation if you would. I want to show you something. It does not mention AIDS specifically, but it's talking about these plagues and Revelation 16:11 (KJV) says: and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. Now, here are some people doing evil deeds and they have sores that do not heal. They have something that cannot be cured. This is incurable. This is a plague! It could be referred to AIDS. AIDS could be a precursor of what's going to be happening.
In Africa, AIDS is killing teachers. Of all people, teachers are dying of AIDS! Teachers, educators that should know better! In fact, as many as one third of all the teachers in Africa are HIV positive. One out of three. Why teachers of all people? Well, first of all, they can afford the prostitutes. And secondly, they've got a lot of students to pick from. We live in an awful world, don't we. Revelation says: "They refuse to repent" for what they are doing.
Four million Africans came down with HIV every year. AIDS has become the number one killer in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year it claimed 2.2 million people died of AIDS. As a result, there are at least 10 million orphans in Africa. In fact, in a school in Lusaka Zambia, half of the two hundred fifty pupils are AIDS orphans. (US News and World Report, 2-14-2000 p. 32) Now, that's a tragedy!
Are you aware that the Reformation os over? The great Reformation that began with Martin Luther. It's over. In fact, I read something back in 1999, in the last century, way back there, remember? In 1999 the Lutheran and Catholic churches signed a document that basically says the Protestant Reformation was just all a misunderstanding. Sorry! I wonder how Martin Luther would feel about that. I think this would be amazing to him. You know, I question whether or not that is the belief of our Catholic friends. Is their "new" belief really in Salvation by Grace through faith alone? If so, why do they still continue with indulgences and a belief in Purgatory? Why do they continue the inquisition and penance? I don't know. But, basically, the Reformation is over.
The Bible says: terror will be a last day phenomenon. Luke 21:26 (NIV) Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Maybe asteroids, I don't know what. Something big out there. Terror in the last days! Do we have terror today? I think we do.
I was watching this week on the news... You know, evening TV has a kaleidoscope of information. Yesterday they announced that a major terrorist event of consequential proportions is on the immediate horizon. They don't know when or where. But they say we cannot stop it. So they are inoculating US soldiers with vaccines that will help them in case they're exposed to Anthrax and other agents of biological warfare. Some soldiers are refusing to take the vaccines and they're being placed in jail. But they announced, it was on the news, that they are expecting a major massacre. It could be a nuclear explosion in a major United States city. It could be a biological mass death. It's going to happen. it's just a matter of time, here in the United States, and they're getting ready for it. Signs of the times: terror.
I believe there is a lot of activity going on in heaven. That's a sign. How do we know that? Well, one of the biggest indications of the immediate return of Jesus is, I think, the beginning of the latter rain. Now how do I know the latter rain is falling? Well, just listen to this. Let us just look at what is happening in INDIA, for instance. One billion people live in India now. Of those one billion people, do you know how many are now open for Christianity? Almost all of them. That's never happened in my lifetime before. I've lived a long time. India is opening to the gospel. To me, that's amazing! Many who live there are willing to accept any brand of Christianity that the first missionary brings to them.
Are you aware that over fifty thousand people were baptized into the Adventist church in India in 1999. We are beginning to spread the gospel there. The growth of the Seventh day Adventist church there is unprecedented. Dedicated Laymen empowered by prayer and the Holy Spirit have established more than a thousand new companies of believers since 1997. In the last two years Maranatha built a hundred fifty new church buildings. However five hundred new congregations sprang up during the same time. They can't build the buildings fast enough. The Holy Spirit is falling! This sounds like the latter rain to me!
Hundreds of laymen have left their occupations to become volunteer gospel workers. They simply inquire as to who is in need of prayer and they pray for the people who live in that house. In response to these simple prayers of faith the sick are being healed, and evil spirits are expelled and the folk accept the truth. They are even praying for incurable people that are being cured. Miracles are happening in India. That to me is the latter rain. When the people go out and miracles follow them, they are casting out evil spirits in India. Seventh-day Adventist laymen. You would be surprised what is going on. New groups are springing up like mushrooms in the springtime. They desperately need church buildings. We take up our children's offering to build a church in India this year. To build one church which will seat two hundred fifty to three hundred people costs $10,000 in American Dollars. As soon as these churches are built, they are filled up.
You know, could it be, I wonder if God has arranged the economy of the United States in such a way that... Are you aware of all the wealth that has been created in the stock markets in the last three years? A lot of you are sharing in that. You're investing in their... I wonder, somehow how all that wealth is being created maybe is coming on the scene at the exact time that we need to be using it to finish gospel? Could that be? Finish the work so we can go home? Let's not keep it all to ourselves. Let's give it to help finish the work.
You can see that major changes are taking place. I believe the coming of Jesus is soon, but I don't know when. I don't have any dates. We do not know when He is coming, but I want to ask you a question. Do you know HOW Jesus will come? This is a very critical question. How will He come? Right here is where WHAT you believe makes an enormous difference.
Does it make much of a difference what you believe? You bet your eternal life it does!!
Popular books speak of TWO second comings of Jesus. The first is a "pre"-second coming which is to be followed by the real thing seven years later.
Conceivably a man and his wife are sitting like watching TV, zombies, potato couches or couch potatoes, whatever. The game show is on and someone is about to win a million dollars. And here's the question. And Bingo! The man know the answer to that and turns to look at his wife and she's gone. She's been zapped away, zoomed off into heaven. She has been secretly raptured. Gone! And he looks back at the tube and a news bulletin flashes on the TV. Police report a large number of accidents on the freeway. One accident every mile! Some Airplanes fall from the air as their pilots are raptured. The secret rapture. Hospitals fill up as accidents multiply. People are killed.
Two people watching TV. One was taken and the other is left. I want to tell you that this doctrine is believed by millions of Christians today. Let me just share what that theory is. They believe that soon after the secret rapture the anti-Christ will come in person and set up a world government. He will be entirely in control if this world. Everybody here is wicked, you see. The great Tribulation or time of trouble begins. All the plagues start falling. The wicked are the only ones to go through it. These famines, plagues, catastrophes come upon the unsaved. The Devil is totally in charge of this planet. He rules for seven or perhaps ten years. Most people receive the mark of the beast.
But, they believe that some people repent. Almost all Jews are converted to Christianity. Churches begin to fill up again. Finally after the seven-year tribulation the righteous come back with God out of heaven, down to this earth and Jesus Christ will set foot on this earth and rule this planet for a thousand years of peace. That's their belief. Over half of all churches today teach this false doctrine. I saw a bumper sticker that said, "In case of rapture: this car will be unmanned." Another said, "The rapture: the best way to fly!"
Let's go to the Bible because what you believe could cost you your eternal life! Come over to II Peter. What you believe could make the difference between your eternal life and your eternal death. They assume that Jesus comes like a thief... quietly and secretly. Well, let's just read this. II Peter 3:10,11 (NIV) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. Okay, there's the secret rapture! Right? He'll come secretly, stealthily. Is that what it's talking about? Is it all quiet and silent when Jesus comes? Nobody knows it, it's a secret? Let's read this. The heavens will disappear with a ROAR; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed... it says in verse 11. Does that sound like the thief coming secretly? NO!
So, how does Jesus come like a thief? We don't know when He's coming. But when He crashes in we surely know it. It's not secret. You never know when a thief will arrive. Jesus' coming will not be silent, not be stealthful, not be secretive. On that day the roar of a thousand forest fires will shake and rattle this earth. Everything will be destroyed. Elements will melt. The building will be burning. You will not miss it. All will be laid bare.
Let me read three texts that you're familiar with. Matthew 24:27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. And then Psalm 50:3 (NLT) Our God approaches with the noise of thunder. Fire devours everything in his way, and a great storm rages around him. Revelation 1:7 (NIV) Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. No question here. Every eye shall see Him. No secret here! I don't feel that it is possible to have confidence in a God who is supposed to sneak in and do a great snatch and leave everybody in disasters afterwards on the freeways, in the air, and everywhere else.
Let me have you look at the their key text. Come over here to Matthew 24 again. This is our favorite chapter on the Second Coming. Here is their key text proving the secret rapture. This proves it according to them. Matthew 24:40-44 (NIV) Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. (See, there's the rapture, they claim.) Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on WHAT DAY your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at WHAT TIME of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
The emphasis here is not on stealthfulness but on the TIME element. That's the emphasis. And, where does it ever connect seven or ten years of additional delay to Jesus coming? Not in this verse. The intelligent Bible student will have an unanswered question that this verse dow not answer. Two men will be in a field. One will be taken and the other will be left. Left where? That's the key, isn't it? Two women will be grinding and one will be taken and the other left. The challenge here to this puzzling verse is WHERE will they be left??
So, let's come over here to Luke 17. These same words are found but there is a very revealing verse or two following them. Luke 17: same verses, same story, same words. LUKE 17:36,37 (KJV) Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. The disciples were listening to this. And here in verse 37, this is a key verse... And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? They weren't any dummies, were they. The disciples said, "Where. Left where?" And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. There's that verse again. That exciting verse!
The Disciples were no dummies. They asked a very intelligent question... Left Where Lord? So we come to verse 37, our key verse. What does this mean? The NIV correctly says: "Where, Lord?" they asked. He replied, Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather. So they are left as vulture food. The New Living Translation says: the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby. Carcass! They are not left alive! Where? They are left dead, left dead. They don't have seven more years of a chance. Can you see how important this is because your only chance is today. If Jesus were coming today, this is your chance because He isn't coming another time. That's why this is such a crucial thing.
Visualize now what happens: When Jesus comes, Two people will be doing something together. Maybe they will both be sky-diving or who know what. One will be taken to heaven and the other left. Left where? Left dead! Killed by what? By the brightness of Jesus' coming. That's right. Left dead. Left as bird food. You're going to be bird food if you're left. Okay? Vultures are going to eat their dead carcasses. They are not left alive. They are not left for a 7 year second chance. No! Their chance to be saved is forever over. They are forever left unsaved. They become vital vulture victuals. That's all they are.
The righteous are caught up to be with Jesus to meet Him in the air and the wicked are killed by the brightness of His coming. (II Thessalonians 2:8) In other words, not one human being will be left alive on this whole globe during the millennium.
In fact we read this, come over to I Thessalonians 4:15-17 (New Living Translation) I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns (That's us.) will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. Now, that's Bible truth.
I'm so glad we believe this. You see, the devil dose not like the doctrine of one second coming of Christ. Why not? There's a reason. You see the Devil wants to hide Bible truth. If there is no secret rapture there is no second chance. If there is no second chance, we must be ready now. If we are not ready now, we will be lost when Jesus comes. Now is the only time to get ready. So, this is critical. This isn't one of those, "Well I don't really care which it is." No! The devil will be victorious this other way and you don't give your heart to Him and you will forever lose your chance to be saved.
Jeremiah 8:20 says: The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. There is only one harvest. If you are not saved in that harvest, you're out. Never do you read in the Bible of a Second harvest after Jesus' coming. There is no post-harvest crop to be gathered. Millions jeopardize their eternal life because they put off salvation until it is too late.
General Douglas MacArthur of the U.S. Army once said, "The History of failure in war can be summed up in two words: TOO LATE
And you're going to be too late if you think, "I've got a second chance, seven years. I can go out now and do my thing and have a high old time in the world. And when all the good people are raptured off, I'll start going to church." No, you're already lost. It's all over. Let us not fail because we were too late. Today, give your heart fully to Jesus. There will be no second chance. Make sure of your salvation now. Friends, are you saved? Do you have a saving relationship with Jesus? Be a real Christian! Be fully yielded to Jesus.
Hymn of praise: #213 Jesus is coming again Scripture Reading: John 14:1-3 Hymn of Response: #202 Hail Him the King of Glory
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last updated 2/22/2000 by Bob Beckett.