Authored by Scott MacGregor (a guest contribution)
We have recently seen a prediction of “the Day of Judgment is upon us” come and go. As you may have heard, Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster, had predicted that Jesus would return on May 21st, 2011, at 6:00PM.
He arrived at that date through a calculation involving various number values given in the Bible. The product of his calculations was supposed to be the number of days between the crucifixion and the second coming. He claimed that he had already determined the date of the crucifixion some years previously.
So, in early 2011, Harold Camping predicted that on May 21st all believers would be raptured to heaven. He then said that there would be a five-month period of torment for those left on earth before everything came to an end on October 21, 2011. I assume he arrived at this five-month period from the passages in Revelation chapter nine where it talks about the locusts that “were given power like that of scorpions,” and they tormented the people for a five-month period.1 As I said, I only assume this to be Harold Camping’s reasoning, as this is the only place in the Bible that I can see him coming up with a five-month period.
Before I go on, perhaps I had better explain what the term rapture means. Long ago, a monk named Jerome was translating the Bible from Greek to Latin. He used the Latin word rapio to describe the way Jesus returns to bring believers to heaven. It is a term that would usually be attributed to the actions of a raider. He was implying that Jesus would swoop down and grab the loot—that is, us believers—and take them back to His home—heaven. It was from this term, rapio, that the word rapture is derived.
Since the Rapture did not occur on May 21st, Camping now says that October 21st is going to be the date when not just the Rapture happens, but God’s judgments fall on the wicked. He also claims that Jesus did come spiritually on May 21st and that from now until October the earth is going through judgment time.
After hearing all that, you might wonder, “So what does the Bible actually say about the Rapture and all this end of the world stuff?” Or maybe you’re knowledgeable on this already. But for those who are curious, here is a quick rundown, based on the Bible, on what we know with a degree of certainty regarding the end time and the Rapture.
The first thing we can know for sure is that we don’t know the specific date of Jesus’ return, at least not yet. Jesus said clearly in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows the day or [the] hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”2 I think we have to take that statement at face value: No one now knows the exact timing of Jesus’ return.
However, the Bible does say that there is going to be an event from which we can date when Jesus is coming back. That event is the breaking of the enigmatically named Holy Covenant by the banning of what is called “the sacrifice and the offering”3 and the setting up of what the Bible calls the Abomination of Desolation.4
We know a bit about the Covenant from the book of Daniel. We know that the person we popularly call the Antichrist is very involved in the signing of the Covenant, and then he breaks it 1,260 days before Jesus’s return. When that “breaking” happens—and it seems it is a public event, since it involves the banning of public religious ceremonies—then we can, with a large measure of certainty, circle the date 1,260 days from that event on our calendar.
I have written in previous books and articles5 that 1,260-day period crops up again and again in the Bible, and all those references have to do with the final period of this epoch of world history, the climactic period known as the Great Tribulation. Sometimes the number is rendered in “sevens,” other times in months, and yet other times cryptically as “times.” One thing to note is that in John’s day a year was 360 days long and a month 30 days. So 1,260 days equals 3½ years or 42 months.
Let’s first look at some verses in the book of Revelation, authored by the apostle John. You may remember, John had been exiled to the island of Patmos, and during that time he saw a long vision about the future. In the vision, an angel tells John “They [apparently an invading army] will trample the holy city for 42 months.”6 The angel then says, “I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”7
In the next chapter, Revelation 12, we read about a beautiful woman who is being chased by a dragon. This woman is symbolic of believers and the dragon is the Devil. Revelation 12:6 says, “The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.”8
Then verse 14 says, “But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.”9
In Revelation 13:5 we hear more about the Antichrist, who is referred to as “the beast.” “Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months.”10
The book of Daniel also talks about the Antichrist’s three-and-a-half-year reign of terror. Daniel 7:25 says, “He will defy the Most High and oppress the holy people of the Most High. He will try to change their sacred festivals and laws, and they will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time.”11
And again he writes that the Antichrist “will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven [years], but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all of his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.”12 So, clearly it is not until after this three-and-a-half-year period that Jesus comes back, as Jesus Himself stated clearly in Matthew 24. In this chapter, Jesus answers the disciples’ question of “what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the world?”13
Jesus refers to the writings in the book of Daniel: “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.”14 He explains that after this “abomination” is set up—which we know from the book of Daniel happens after the breaking of the Covenant—there would follow a period of anguish, especially for the followers of God.
He then says, “Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming [in] the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.”15
Jesus was making it clear to His disciples—and us—that His return, and the Rapture, would not happen until after this 1,260-day period of Tribulation takes place. Notice He also made it clear that the Rapture would be a very visible and widely noticed thing—“all the peoples of the earth” will see it.
Paul taught us more about it in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, where he wrote: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”16
So let’s recap all this:
1) No one now knows the exact day or hour that Jesus will return.
2) However, it seems we will know at some time in the future, as it happens 1,260 days after the Covenant is broken.
3) That 1,260-day period is a time when the Antichrist will be in power, and it will not be a fun time for the world. This time is often referred to as “the Great Tribulation.”
4) And the good news is that immediately after this, Jesus returns and all the world will see His return, and all believers will be raptured—both those who have already died and those who are living.
So we do have some time to go before the Rapture occurs. We don’t know exactly how much time we have, so the wisest thing to do is take to heart Jesus’ counsel at the end of Matthew 24 where He says: “A faithful, sensible servant is one whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.”17 In other words, the best thing we can do now is to do our best to love God and others, as these, Jesus said, are the great commandments.
So let’s not worry about the end of the world. In fact, Jesus said to not even worry about tomorrow!18 There’s so much living and loving to do here and now—and a life well lived is the best preparation for whatever will come tomorrow. Enjoy yourself and help others enjoy life too.
1 Revelation 9:3–10.
2 New Living Translation.
3 Daniel 9:27 ESV.
4 Matthew 24:15 NKJV.
5 The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist and The Future Foretold
6 Revelation 11:2 NLT.
7 Revelation 11:3 NIV.
8 New International Version.
9 New Living Translation.
10 New Living Translation.
11 New Living Translation.
12 Daniel 9:27 NLT.
13 Matthew 24:3 NKJV.
14 Matthew 24:15 NLT.
15 Matthew 24:29–31 NLT.
16 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 NIV.
17 Matthew 24:45–46 NLT.
18 Matthew 6:34.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International