Millions of Christians and Christian leaders long for the world to grow darker hoping that the “Rapture” will happen in their lifetime. Did you happen to notice the glee on the faces of end-times prognosticators such as Jerry Jenkins, Joel Rosenberg, and others while being interviewed on CNN recently about the current conflict between Israel and Lebanon? Rather than seeking to heal these conflicts with the transforming power of the Gospel, they seem to sit back as the world goes up in smoke and say, “Tis all according to prophecy.” I don’t believe that these sincere Christian leaders really want to see war in the Middle East. Nor do I think they realize how their beliefs affect American and even international politics in dangerous ways. They are simply looking for the Rapture—what some Christian leaders mislabel the “Blessed Hope.”
The “Blessed Hope” is defined in Titus 2:13. If the Rapture is the “Blessed Hope” Paul refers to, then several generations of Christians have lived and died without ever realizing this hope. What kind of hope is the Rapture? A hope never realized by the majority of Christians cannot truly be hope. We believe Christians are misinterpreting Titus 2:13 and the true definition of the “Blessed Hope.” On pages 223-224 of his book, Last Days Madness, Gary DeMar states:
Dave Hunt, in How Close Are We?, maintains that “Paul called the Rapture ‘that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). There is no mention of a rapture, either pre-,mid-, or post-tribulational in this passage. Hunt, a as a pre-tribulationist, asserts that “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior” is a description of Jesus’ coming at the end of the seven-year tribulation period while the “blessed hope” is the rapture of the church prior to the tribulation period. The belief that Titus 2:13 describes two comings must be read into the passage. Paul was “awaiting our blessed hope” which was “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Even John Walvoord believes that Titust 2:13 describes only one event.
What is this “blessed hope”? It was the “appearing fo the glory” of Jesus. We have come across this language before in Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels…” (Matt. 16:27; cf. Mark 8:38). When did this happen? “Truly I say to you, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28). Jesus had His generation in mind, not a distant generation.
Notice that Titus 2:13 describes the “appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Paul does not say that Jesus will appear, only that “the glory” will appear. There is a significant difference in meaning.
On page 225, Gary defines what Titus 2:13 predicts as “the glory” of Christ’s appearing. It is His coming in judgment in the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. This climactic event brought an official close to the Temple sacrifices and ushered in the promises of the New Covenant in its fullness. This interpretation also makes the most sense of the prophetic time indicators such as “this generation (Matt. 24:34),” “near (Rev. 1:3),” “at hand (Matt. 3:2, 4:17),” “shortly (Rev. 1:1),” etc.
The appearing of the glory is the coming o the fullness of the New Covenant promises as outlined in the gospel. The Old Covenant came with glory “which fades away” (1 Cor. 3:7, 10-11, 13). The New Covenant has come with even more glory (3:8). “For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains in glory” (3:9-11).
So what, then, is our blessed hope? It is the hope of eternal life and the resurrection promised only to those who have faith in Jesus Christ. The blessed hope is not just an escape hatch for Christians living in some distant generation. It is the hope of all Christians through all time! Jesus has conquered death and we shall never die (John 11:26)!
If we’re not waiting on the Rapture, what comes next?
When Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, he finally received the Kingdom promised to him (Heb. 1). Ever since that time, Jesus has been reigning over his Kingdom. First Corinthians 15:25 states, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” Jesus, our victorious King, is in the process of conquering his enemies on the earth. Notice what Jesus says about the nature of his Kingdom in Matthew 13:31-33: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” The prophet Isaiah states, “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom…”(Isaiah 9:7).
Modern-day prophecy “experts”, who have existed in every generation and have always been wrong, unnecessarily complicate Bible prophecy. Instead of taking the words of Scripture at face value, they use the newspaper to interpret God’s precious truth, create complicated charts, introduce gaps in the Bible, and dismiss Christ’s Kingdom. These “experts” are the ones who have taken away our hope and vision for the future. They have taken dark events of the first century and made them our future. They have exchanged Christ’s reign of victory for a parenthetical age of doom and gloom.
Every year, the predictions of end-times prognosticators fail to come to pass. But new generations come along that are unaware of their false prophecies. These newcomers unsuspectingly accept the latest batch of end time prophecies. This phenomenon enables dispensational eschatology to continue unchallenged throughout the generations. Thankfully, times are changing. With information available at people’s fingertips via the Internet, these false prophets are going to be caught peddling their false hope!
God is raising up a remnant who will stand true to His Word, seek first His Kingdom, build a City on a Hill, and fulfill the Great Commission and Cultural mandate. I am thankful to be a part of this amazing time in Church history.