Those who are watching for signs of the Lord’s return for His saints, as commanded in Matthew 24:42-44, sense that the Rapture is quickly approaching. Although no sign is given in the Scriptures concerning “the day and hour” of the Rapture, some believe Hebrews 10:25 implies that we will be able to see the day of the Rapture approaching: “...Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” Anticipation of the approaching Rapture of God’s saints seems to be implied in Luke 10:28: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
We are admonished in Luke 21:34-36, concerning the Rapture, to “...take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it [i.e., that day—the Rapture] come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch you therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 that “...you brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” These verses teach that the Rapture (sometimes referred to as “the great escape”) should not catch us off guard (“unawares”) even though we don’t know “the day or hour” that Christ will return for His bride, the Church.
Let’s review one of the major Rapture passages before going further: 13 “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The timing of the Rapture, also called the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13, will be as a thief in the night to those not watching, but the “times and seasons” of the Rapture will not be a surprise to those who are looking for His return (1 Thessalonians 5:4, Matthew 25:1-13). Christ told His apostles, as recorded in Acts 1:6-7, that it was not for them “...to know the times or the seasons...” for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Christ’s generation would not see the restoration of Israel; however, Paul, when writing nearly two decades later (51 A.D.) about “the times and seasons” of Christ’s return, gave a significant clue to the church of Thessalonica concerning the time of His coming, which would miraculously coincide with Israel’s restoration to its land almost 2,000 years later.
1 “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
The Thessalonians passage just quoted (5:3) provides clear evidence that our generation is now living in the “times and seasons” of the Lord’s return. The specific wording Paul used to link the Rapture with a specific generation that would see Christ’s return is “peace and safety.” Some translations say “peace and security” (ESV, ISV, Douay-Rheims, et al.). Paul said: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
In retrospect, the “peace and safety (security)” concept could not be understood properly until Israel had returned to its land during the 20th century and the current Middle East peace process had progressed to the point that Paul’s statement about “peace and security” was common usage among those who were promoting “peace and security.” The “they” and “them” in verse 3 refers to those who would be using the words “peace and security” frequently in “their” speeches when this prophecy was nearing fulfillment. The “peace and security” speeches “they” would be giving prior to the Rapture would also need to take place in a public setting (i.e., London, New York, Jerusalem, the White House, et al.) on numerous occasions so there would be no misunderstanding about whom the “they” referred to.
As students of Bible prophecy, we can now know and understand, based upon the context of the time in which we are living, that the “they” undoubtedly refers to all or part of the Quartet (or its successors) that is currently involved in the Middle East peace process. The “they” who will experience the “sudden destruction” does not refer to Israel, but rather to specific Gentile nations and their leaders, even though Israel is a primary participant in the “peace and security” negotiations. The Bible is very clear that Israel will never be destroyed, so the “they” in verse 3 who will experience “sudden destruction” and who “shall not escape” does not include Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-37). Frankly, this prophecy does not bode well for those nations currently trying to divide the land of Israel. The “sudden destruction” from which “they shall not escape” will be catastrophic and permanent.
It has been said by many who follow Bible prophecy that Israel is God’s timepiece, and Jerusalem is the minute hand. If you want to understand God’s prophetic program and where we are on God’s timetable, watch Israel and Jerusalem (Psalm 121:4). After nearly 2,000 years of absence from its land following dispersion by the Roman armies in 70 A.D., the nation of Israel was reborn at midnight on May 14, 1948. The model God used for the rebirth of Israel was built upon the return of the Jewish people to their homeland as predicted by the prophets in many Old Testament books (Isaiah 43:1-11; Jeremiah 16:14-21; Ezekiel 20:33-44, 36:8-12, 36:24-38, 37:12-21, 38:8; Micah 4:6-8; Zechariah 13:8-9, et al.).
The return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel began around the middle of the 19th century, was accelerated by the leadership of Theodor Herzl, “the father of Zionism,” in the late 1800s, and publicly acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Israel’s return was validated by the United Nations in November of 1947 and consummated on May 15, 1948, the first day of Israel’s rebirth. The process for Israel’s restoration (rebirth) required increasing numbers of Jews returning to the land of Israel (aliyahs) amidst much clamor and protest by its Islamic neighbors. The hostility involving Israel’s return was reminiscent of the birth pangs associated with childbirth, as prophesied in Isaiah 66:8 and 43:5-6:
66:8“Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” 43:5-6“Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.”
Following Israel’s reestablishment as a nation in 1948, the nations surrounding this small country have ruthlessly and relentlessly tried to exterminate the Jewish people and destroy the nation of Israel (Psalm 83:4). This irrational hatred can be traced back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the offspring of Ishmael and Esau. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama have committed their administrations and legacies to resolving this Middle East crisis, which threatens worldwide economic stability and has the potential to ignite World War III.
The primary motive and incentive for this unprecedented, diabolical alignment against Israel is the intense hatred of the Jewish people by the Islamic nations and the insatiable desire for oil that is located in the Mideastern, Islamic countries. This alignment of nations, which has grown in recent years to include all the nations of the world, is called the “Diplomatic Quartet” or “Madrid Quartet” or simply the “Quartet”. The Quartet is composed of the United States, Russia, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN). The Quartet group was established in Madrid in 2002 by the Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, as a result of the escalating conflict in the Middle East. Tony Blair is the Quartet's current Special Envoy. The Quartet and its Representatives
One can readily see that this involvement of all the nations of the world against one small nation, Israel, is highly unusual and unique in the history of the world. Such an alignment, which will eventually lead to a peace treaty or covenant (Daniel 9:24-27), was prophesied in the Bible thousands of years ago (Zechariah chapters 12-14). The accuracy of the Bible in predicting this alignment of nations against God’s chosen nation, Israel, should serve as presumptive evidence to any reasonable person that the Bible is authoritative, and that the God of the Bible can be trusted (Isaiah 1:18-20, 42:5-9).