Greg Laurie - The Rapture And Revival
Why don't you grab your Bibles and turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. If you don't know where that is, it's right after 1 Thessalonians chapter 3. The title of my message is the rapture and revival. So we're talking about what is known as the Jesus Movement or the Jesus Revolution as Time Magazine dubbed it. We didn't call it a revolution in the day, but as we look back with 20/20 hindsight, I would say it was a revolution because a revolution is an upheaval: it's a change and that's exactly what it was. It changed the culture and without a question, it was a work of the Holy Spirit and our prayer is that it will happen again.
Remember, I made the distinction America needs an awakening: the church needs a revival. So we need to pray that the Lord would send a spiritual awakening to our nation, but that he would send a revival to the church: and really what is the church? It's not a building. It's people. It's you. You're the church. I'm the church. The Bible says that we're the temple of God fitted together. So let revival start with you. It's easy to point a finger and say: man they need to get their life together. They need to change this or that. Well maybe they do, but what about you? It starts with you as an individual.
Remember the word revive means to be restored to original condition. So we're getting back to, well, the church the way Jesus did it in the first century. Point number one: if we want to see a spiritual awakening happen in our nation, we must pray with passion. Let me say that again. We want to see a spiritual awakening happen in our nation, we need to pray with passion.
Remember the story of that woman who was praying for her child to be delivered from the power of satan. She saw Jesus. She said, "Have mercy upon me, oh Son of David, my daughter is possessed by a demon". The disciples actually came to her and said "Stop it. You're creating a scene. Stop bothering us". And Jesus listened to her because she would not stop because she pressed on and Jesus turns to her and says, "Dear woman, your faith is great". In other words, I heard you. What is it you want? She says, "I want my daughter to be healed". And he says, "Your prayer is answered". And sometimes I think one of the reasons we don't see our prayers answered is we don't pray with passion. We can't expect God to put much passion in answering a prayer if we won't put any passion in offering a prayer to him.
There's a story in the book of Acts of when Peter was in prison. This was after James had been beheaded by king Herod and Peter was next. So we read in Acts chapter 12 "Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church", and that would better be translated "The church prayed fervently to God".
We need to learn how to pray fervently. It's an important word. It means to display intense passion. It means to be sincere. Whole-hearted. It's sort of like the prayer that Elijah prayed. Understand, Elijah was a really ordinary guy. We think he was like superman or something. He was just like you. In fact, he was given to bouts with depression. He was so depressed one day he wanted to take his own life. So this is a human like us. A flesh and blood guy, but the Bible tells us in James 5:16 "The fervent prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results". Elijah was as human as we are, yet when he prayed fervently that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years and he prayed again and the sky sent down rain.
So we'll say, "I prayed about that". Okay good, but what kind of a prayer was it? Is it sort of a "Lord, save the world, amen"? I mean you know, really. That's not a prayer. You know, pray with some passion. Pray with some fervor. That's the idea. No one is beyond the reach of God. I don't care how wicked they are. I don't care if they're a full-blown atheist. I don't care if they scream at you when you share the Gospel with them. Don't give up on them. It might be your mom, it might be your dad, it might be your grandparents. Hey, it could even be your son or your daughter, a brother or a sister, a coworker, it could be your wife, it could be your husband. Whoever it is. A cranky neighbor, right. "They'll never come to Christ". How do you know? Have you tried praying for them? So we need to remember to pray with great passion.
All right so let's sort of review some of the earmarks of the last great spiritual awakening. Remember I told you there was a sense of expectancy in the service. No one was ever late for church. We wanted to see what the Lord would do. I think that's the right way to come to church. We come expecting God to work.
Number two: the Word of God was taught in every service. Listen, I offer theology without apology. I'm always going to crack open the Bible. I think it's great to have worship. Great to pray. We want to do all of those things, but I think we need to hear from the Word of God because that's how God speaks to us so that's something that has always been important to us and was important back then.
Thirdly, the people participated in the worship. You know, you can just stand idly by and watch everybody else do it or you can join in and you might as well start worshiping because we are going to do a lot of that in heaven. So that was very important.
Another thing is people brought nonbelievers to church and we would see people come to Christ in every service. I think it's always a good idea to bring a friend. With one hand reach out to Jesus and with the other bring a friend. But here's the thing I want to focus on in this message: we believed in the imminent return of Jesus. Now there's a lot of reasons we believe that. A lot of things were happening back in those days that I'll go into a little bit more next time, but Israel had been regathered together as a nation in 1948 may 14. Effectively that started the prophetic time clock clicking. There are signs of the times but Israel is a super sign. It's a mega sign.
So we watch with great interest because Ezekiel 37, 38, and 39 talks about Israel being scattered to the four corners of the planet, which they were. It talks about them miraculously returning to their land, which they officially did in 1948 on the heels of the horrific holocaust where 6 million Jewish people lost their lives when the Nazis were engaging in their so-called final solution of antisemitism. So they're a nation and they had so many enemies and they were attacked immediately and against all odds they survived. In 1973 something called the Yom Kippur war happened. Now it was called that because their enemies attacked on the high and holiest day on the Israeli calendar. So most Israelis were off. They were worshiping. They were not prepared and this massive attack comes. Not only did they defend their land, they even gained a little more land.
So it was a miracle. Here's where it got interesting is Russia was fully behind this attack. So reading the scripture, and we'll talk about this more next time, the Bible says that when they are regathered in their land again they'll be attacked from a massive nation on their north and if you go to the north of Israel today on any map you'll find the landmass we know as Russia. So when we see the nations attacking Israel with Russia behind it, it was almost like a dress rehearsal for what is to come.
One day, we don't know when that day will be, a nation will attack Israel. If you read that on the front page of your newspaper or on your news-feed, look up because your redemption is drawing near. So I believe we're living in the last days. I believe Christ could come back at any time and the Bible talks a lot about this. There are 300 passages in scripture that deal with the return of Christ. Jesus himself talked about it 21 times when he walked this earth. One verse in every 25 mentions the Lord's return.
What sets the Bible apart from all of the religious books is the Bible is the one book that dares to predict the future. Not once, not twice, not three times, not ten times, but hundreds of times and now we can look back in retrospect and see that those prophecies that are in the rear view mirror were fulfilled and therefore if those were fulfilled exactly as God said they would be, take Christmas as an example, Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and he would be born of a virgin and in all the prophecies that he would be a son of David. All the things the Bible said those were fulfilled to the T. He would die on the cross. All of the was prophesied in the Old Testament.
So when we read about the return of Jesus listen you can take it to the bank. He's going to come. Go ahead and clap for that. That's a good one. So I'll dive in a little bit deeper into these things next time, but another thing that's going to happen in the last days is an anti-Christ is going to emerge on the scene. He's spoken of in many places in scripture but a lot of the verses that address him are found in the book of revelation. Understand that the word anti as in anti-Christ does not just mean against, it also means instead of. He'll be a false Messiah. He'll be an imitation Jesus.
Listen to what the anti-Christ is going to do. He's going to emerge on the scene as a man of peace. He's going to bring about a new economic system where no man will buy or sell without this special mark. Back in the 70s we were trying to wrap our minds around how such a thing could happen. We're not wrapping our minds around it anymore, people. The technology is here. The technology is already on our phones, and soon it could be on our bodies and we already know the technology that's used and surveillance and in so many other areas. Every purchase you make. Every place you go. You can be monitored. We know all this stuff. So literally the things that the Bible prophesied are happening before our very eyes. We see things are in place for that leader to emerge. He'll be hailed by some as the Messiah because he'll help the Jewish people rebuild their temple.
I was in Israel years ago and I was talking with an Israeli man, not a believer in Jesus, and he mentioned the Messiah. I said "Tell me who you think the Messiah is. What will the Messiah do for you"? He says, "I believe when the Messiah comes he will be a man, he'll bring peace, and he'll help us rebuild our temple". I said, "Sir, you just described the anti-Christ". Which makes the point. Anti just doesn't mean against: it means instead of. He'll be a false Christ. And then he'll reveal his true colors. But you see, before Antichrist can emerge on the scene, Jesus Christ will come for his church.
You say, "But why do you say that"? Listen, 2 Thessalonians 2 says, "The mystery of lawlessness is already at work. He who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way and then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming". What's going to be taken out of way? Sometimes people think it's the Holy Spirit, but actually it's the church. The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth once anti-Christ comes on the scene. That's a misunderstanding because people are going to come to Christ after the rapture. How can anyone come to Christ without the work of the Holy Spirit? But the work of the Spirit in the church is completed and we're caught up to meet the Lord so he can't be revealed, he being anti-Christ, until the church that is all true believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air: therefore, we should not be looking for anti-Christ, we should be looking for Jesus Christ. That's very important.
Sometimes people will make light of it. You don't hear this taught as much as you used to hear it taught. That's really too bad because it's still in the Bible and it's still real and it's still going to happen. What is the Rapture? The rapture is when Christ descends from heaven for his church and we're caught up to meet the Lord in the air. In that moment we receive our new resurrection bodies. It's also then that we are reunited with loved ones that have preceded us.
Now critics of the rapture will say, "Well you can't find the word rapture in the Bible. So there". Well you can't find the word Bible in the Bible. How about that? The word Bible is not in the Bible. Nor can you find the word Trinity in the Bible. Actually, you can find the word rapture in the Bible if you have a Latin translation because rapturous is a simple Latin translation of the word harpazo - a Greek word. That word you'll find many times in the Bible. The harpazo, sometimes called the rapture, is that event where we're caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
Where is it in the Bible? Oh right. 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Let's read it together. "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first and we which are alive and remaining shall be caught up". That phrase caught up is from the Greek word harpazo or rapture, "Will be caught up, raptured, together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words". So this word harpazo is used 13 times in the New Testament. It means to take forcibly, to snatch, or to catch up.
So number two: why is there a rapture? Understand the context. Paul is writing to the believers of Thessalonica. They're under intense persecution. Relatives and friends have died and they're wondering, are we ever going to see our loved ones again. So Paul is trying to calm them down and give them perspective. They're wondering, "Well maybe they would miss the rapture and they would never see their loved ones ever again". So Paul now writes going back a verse or two. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 he says, "We don't want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who have died so you will not grieve as those who have no hope". So this is very interesting, brothers, sisters, people, listen. We don't want you to be uninformed. So what is Paul doing? He is explaining why Bible prophecy matters.
Have you ever seen the comic strip "Peanuts"? You know peanuts? Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, all those guys. Snoopy. Right. So there's this peanut strip frame one: Lucy and Linus, her brother, are looking out the window. It's just raining like crazy. Raining. Raining. Frame two: Lucy says, "It's raining so hard. I think the whole earth is going to be flooded". Frame three: Linus says, "That's not going to happen, Lucy, because God promised in Scripture he would never flood the earth again and he's given us a rainbow as a reminder". Then the next frame Lucy says, "Wow. That takes a load off my mind". And then the final frame has Linus saying, "A good theology has a way of doing that".
So sometimes you know, we're freaked out by stuff. We're afraid of death understandably. We're afraid of what if this happens, what if that happens, that's where theology comes in. Don't be afraid of the word theology. It just means the study of God. Every time we open the Bible, we're entering into theology. We're studying God and knowing the Bible helps you deal with so many things because when things frighten you, you go back to the Bible. Here's what the Bible says. And it can correct you right.
So Paul is saying to those guys: listen, I don't want you to be uninformed. That's why we need to know about Bible prophecy. Some will say, no one can figure it out. It's not worth studying. Really? Jesus said "When you see the abomination of desolation let the reader beware and let the reader understand". So here he's saying something is coming and you need to understand what I'm talking about. That's why we need to break it down and explain it. The very word revelation, you know the last book of the Bible. Sometimes people call it revelations. That kind of drives me crazy. It's revelation. Singular not plural. Revelation: it means unveiling. The unveiling. So it's not God's desire to conceal but to reveal to show us these things.
By the way, there is a promise in revelation to everyone who reads, hears, and keeps the word of this book so basically God is saying if you read this if you understand it and if you keep it you'll be blessed. I think that applies to Bible prophecy in general. That's why we should study Bible prophecy and understand what it means for us today. So Paul is just saying look, I want you to have perspective here because knowing the rapture could come brings hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 "Says, therefore comfort one another with these words". So here is what Paul is saying, you will see your loved ones again. So you will grieve but you don't have to do so hopelessly, but rather, hopefully. You know, when a loved one dies we miss them. It breaks our heart. I know many of you have lost loved ones. I've lost many loved ones. My father, my mother, my son. So this is devastating and you wonder will I ever see them again. If they have faith in Christ, the answer is a resounding yes. You will.
That's a great comfort to remind yourself of what the Bible says because when you have someone taken from you unexpectedly like our son Christopher was in an automobile accident almost 11 years ago we didn't know it was going to happen. It was like I had many years I expected to have with him in the future. I'm supposed to go first. Dad goes first then you much much later. Not you before me. So you find yourself dreaming about a loved one. Sometimes you're having conversations with your loved one. You that have lost people close to you know what I'm talking about.
But here is the promise of the rapture: one day you could be going about your business thinking about your departed loved one. Then suddenly, so quickly, you couldn't even measure it in time, you'd be with them. Mothers and fathers will be with sons and daughters. Sons and daughters reunited with mothers and fathers. Brothers reunited with brothers. Sisters reunited with sisters. Jonathan our son is sitting here and you know he loved his brother and looked up to his brother. He'll be reunited with him. This is our great hope as Christians. Friends will be reunited with friends. Your sorrow will immediately vanish and it will be replaced by ecstatic joy. Not only will you be reunited with your loved one, you'll be in the presence of Jesus himself. That's good news.
I believe the rapture could happen in our lifetime. I wouldn't set a date. No one should, but it could. So it's good to think about these things. Sometimes people will say, oh yeah, you have your head in the clouds. I think we need our head in the clouds a little bit more sometimes. We have our heads way too much in our cell phones and not enough in the clouds. Nobody even looks up anymore. Everyone is looking down. Do you ever notice that? Everyone is looking down. Looking down.
You know. And we're walking across crosswalks with four lanes of traffic coming both ways just staring at that thing. I mean I don't trust people. People run red lights, right. But we don't have conversations with each other. No. We need to look up. The Bible says when you see these things begin to happen look up for your redemption is drawing near. It's good to think about heaven. It's good to try to imagine heaven. I know it's not easy because we've never been there before but it's a good thing to ponder. The Bible even says set your mind on things above. Not on things of the earth. C. S. Lewis said "A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do".
Number three: when is the rapture? Answer: no one knows. If they say they know you can be sure they're wrong. Why? Because Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour. Not even the angels nor the Son interestingly. Only the Father. No one knows the day or the hour. Now if you were take that phrase, "No one knows the day or the hour" and go to the original Greek and translate it, it would translate out to say, "No one knows the day or the hour".
And what that means is no one knows the day or the hour. But every now and then some person comes along and they've cracked the code, "I know when Jesus is coming. I've studied the blood moons and the feasts and I think I maybe have even identified the anti-Christ and it's this day" and people will believe it.
There was a book years ago. "88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Come Back in 1988". Sold over a million copies in 1988. Didn't sell so well after that and I made the bold statement "This book is not true" because no one knows the day or the hour. So when is the rapture? Tonight? Tomorrow? In a week? In a month? In a year? In a decade? In three decades? I don't know, but it could happen tonight.
In my understanding of scripture, I don't see any prophetic event that would have to happen before the rapture could come. There's prophetic events that would have to happen before anti-Christ is revealed. There are prophetic events that need to happen before the tribulation period starts. There are events that need to happen before the second coming, but no event that needs to happen before the rapture. Here is the big picture. Here is the chronology of events at least as I understand them and I'm right. I hope. But I believe the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture where we're caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
Then after that I think anti-Christ emerges rather quickly on the heels of that and inaugurates the Great Tribulation period that lasts for seven years. Initially he comes off as a good guy. He comes off as a man of peace. A man with solutions, but in time he shows his true colors and then he performs what is called the abomination of desolation. I mentioned that a moment ago. That is after he has rebuilt the Jewish temple for the Jewish people. He erects an image of himself in the temple and commands that everyone should worship it.
That's the abomination of desolation and that's effectively the halfway point of the tribulation period. Then all those cataclysmic events you read about. The horrible wars and the famine and all the rest happens in the second half of the tribulation. It all culminates in the battles of Armageddon. Fought in the Valley of Megiddo. The reason it's called Armageddon it's from the root word har-magedon or Megiddo because of the location of the battle. The Valley of Megiddo there in Israel and as the anti-Christ is waging war against the Kings of the East the scripture tells us that Christ will return in the second coming.
On the heels of the second coming he establishes the millennial reign. The millennium is just a word that means one thousand. It's a thousand year reign of Christ and at the end of the millennium or the thousand year reign of Christ then new Jerusalem is a bride adorned for her husband comes down from heaven and heaven and earth become one. So if someone says, "I just want to leave this world and go be in heaven forever". Actually, you're not going to be in heaven forever. You will be heaven but heaven is going to come to earth. There's going to be a new earth. So that's the chronology as I see it. So when is the rapture? Nobody knows.
Why is it important to believe that Jesus could return at any moment? Because it motivates us to live godly lives. 1 John 3:3 says, "He that has this hope purifies himself even as he is pure". So I think when we're walking with God and you hear a message like this that Jesus is coming you say, "Yes. I want it". Like we sing "Even so come, Lord Jesus, come". I think if you're not right with God you're thinking "Eh. Really"? See, he that has this hope the hope of the Lord's return, purifies himself. I want to be on my best behavior because Christ is coming. Romans 13:11 says understand the present time. The hour has come for us to wake up from our sleep because our salvation is near now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over. The day is almost here. Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ?