Update 26 September 2017
Of course David Meade was wrong. The date setters and false prophets are always wrong as they have been virtually from the time our Lord said, “no man know the day or the hour.” Just as Harold Camping, so David Meade has refused to admit his foolishness and his now adjusting his prediction to continue to take money from the gullible. He now claims that September is the “sign month” which “gets the ball rolling for the next seven years.” Surprise, surprise, if you want the inside dope you will have to buy his book.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matt 24:36–44.; NASB95).
It is Harold Camping all over again. Once again someone has gained notoriety for predicting the return of Jesus. This time it is a fellow named Gary Ray. On August 21, Julie Zausmer wrote in the Washington Post on August 21,
In certain religious communities, the talk surrounding the eclipse has to do with a different sort of preparation. Gary Ray isn’t worried about just travel plans and adequate eye protection. He’s focused on the Rapture.
Ray, a writer for the evangelical Christian publication Unsealed, views this eclipse as one of several astronomical signs that the day when Christians will be whisked away from the Earth is fast approaching.
“The Bible says a number of times that there’s going to be signs in the heavens before Jesus Christ returns to Earth. We see this as possibly one of those,” Ray said about the eclipse.
He is even more interested in another astronomical event that will occur 33 days after the eclipse, on Sept. 23, 2017.
The Book of Revelation, which is full of extraordinary imagery, describes a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” who gives birth to a boy who will “rule all the nations with an iron scepter” while she is threatened by a red, seven-headed dragon. The woman then grows the wings of an eagle and is swallowed up by the earth.
Ray says that image will be created in the sky on Sept. 23. The constellation Virgo — representing the woman — will be clothed in sunlight, in a position that is over the moon and under nine stars and three planets. The planet Jupiter, which will have been inside Virgo — in her womb, in Ray’s interpretation — will move out of Virgo, as if she is giving birth.
Astronomers don’t see this as a particularly unusual event. But to Ray and others, it could be the sign that the Rapture is ready to happen: “We think it’s God signaling to us that he’s about to make his next move.”
And Ray thinks the two eclipses that are slated to travel across the United States in 2017 and 2024, together marking an X across the nation, could be the starting and ending signs bookmarking a seven-year period of awful tribulations that Revelations says waits in store for nonbelievers who are left behind on Earth when the Rapture occurs.
“That time frame is speculative, 2017 to 2024. But it makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of things that really point us to that,” he said.
To be sure, Ray hedges his claim but he is nonetheless predicting the return of Jesus and in so doing ignoring our Lord’s explicit teaching in Matthew 24. Further, this entire approach to the return of Christ misses the mark because it misses the parallel that our Lord drew between his future bodily return and the days of Noah. Indeed, missing the connection between Noah and Jesus has been the cornerstone of the entire “Left Behind” phenomenon and has been since the beginning of of the modern “secret rapture” craze since 1972.
That was the year a film swept through American Evangelical culture: “A Thief in the Night.” It came complete with Larry Norman’s haunting theme song,”I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”
The film and the song were both intended to frighten young people, to paint a frightening picture of the future, to create fear about potentially missing out on the so-called “secret rapture.” There is a healthy fear of a righteous and holy God. There is a healthy fear of divine judgment before the God who is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3) but the film deliberately plays on the fear of being separated from loved ones, fear of pilotless planes, driverless cars, and an all-powerful United Nations. Remarkably, as this writing, we are approaching driverless (self-piloting cars) and the United Nations is as hapless as ever—almost certainly too uncoordinated to form a one-world government.
This eschatology did not end in the 1970s. Twenty years later Tim LaHaye published a series of novels on the same theme beginning with the book, Left Behind. A succession of films, one starring Nicholas Cage, has been made to capitalize on the fervor. The premise of the films, the song, and the movements associated with them was that Jesus will come invisibly to take his people secretly out of the earth and institute a seven-year tribulation.
The good news, however, is that God’s Word says exactly the opposite. God’s people were left behind in Noah’s day and they will be left behind when Jesus comes. The key, “as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes.”
As It Was In The Days Of Noah
In order to understand the parallel that our Lord Jesus made one must know what Scripture says about “the days of Noah.”
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land bin whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Gen 7:11–24; NASB).
This is the narrative upon which Jesus drew to help us understand the nature of his bodily return. It was part of a larger discourse, frequently called the Olivet Discourse. It is a complex discourse in which Jesus spoke like an Old Testament prophet. In that genre events that are near and far get telescoped together. So, he warned his disciples about both the coming destruction of Jerusalem and his return. We should not, however, fall into the error of the Hymenaens (2 Tim 2:17–18), who taught that Jesus has already returned. This is heresy against the ecumenical Christian faith as confessed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (325, 381) and the Apostles’ Creed. The modern iteration of his heresy is called “Full Preterism.” This view has been adopted by some evangelicals and fundamentalists in reaction to the theory of the “secret rapture” and the “Left Behind” obsession. This doctrine, that Jesus has already returned is contrary to God’s Word. It is also contrary to fact. The early church knew nothing about Jesus’ “return” in AD 70.
Both the full preterist and rapture theory miss the import of the parallelism that Jesus drew and what he actually said about the destruction of Jerusalem. Regarding the latter, he gave them indicators for which to look and, as a matter of history, the early Christians heeded those warnings and fled to the Transjordan in advance of the assault by the Roman troops and the sacking of Rome. This, of course, earned the Jewish Christians the enmity of the non-Christian Jews, who resented them for abandoning Jerusalem to the Romans.
The “left behind” theory misses completely the parallel with Noah. Jesus’ point is that the place one wants to be when the judgment comes is in the ark. One does not want to be “taken.” Read his words carefully. The flood waters came and “took” the unbelieving away. Two are working. One is “taken” and the other left. To be taken is to be destroyed in the judgement. His point here is that believers will be spared. They will be left behind.
Tim LaHaye, Larry Norman, and the Thief in the Night got this passage completely backwards. How? They came to it with the assumption that there is such a thing as a secret rapture and when they saw the words “taken” and “left behind” they interpreted them via the “left behind” (rapture) scheme. Because they were convinced that there is a secret rapture they could not see the parallelism with Noah.
Tragically, the “left behind” approach is persuasive because many American Christians are ignorant of the most basic knowledge about the Old Testament. Under the influence of Dispensationalism, with the exception of a few morality tales (“Be like Daniel”) the Old Testament narratives are largely unknown. For Dispensationalists and other evangelicals, the OT narratives are thought to belong to be “nor for today.” Thus, they are unable to see the force of the parallel that Jesus drew between the “days of Noah” and the day of his return.
In distinction from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, of which there were signs, Jesus’ return will be a surprise. It will be sudden. That is the point of the analogy with the thief in the night. If you knew when the thief was coming, you would be ready. You would have your shotgun to hand and the telephone nearby but you do not know when the thief is coming and thus are caught sleeping.
Bad News For Those Outside the Ark
If you have not acknowledged your sin and trusted Christ, you should not fear a secret rapture nor an imaginary seven-year tribulation (which is nothing more than the fundamentalist version of purgatory) but rather the terrible and fearsome wrath of the holy King of Kings because all shall be made to “kiss the ring” (Ps 2:2) and bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Isa 45:23; Phil 2:10; Rom 14:11).
The way to prepare for Jesus’ return is the same way people were to prepare for the Noahic flood: repent and believe. All those who acknowledged their sin and guilt, who confessed Christ climbed aboard the ark of salvation and were delivered from the wrath of God (1 Pet 3:20). . So it is now. Jesus is the ark. The next flood will not be with water but with fire (2 Pet 3:6–7).
As surely as Jesus came the first time he is coming again. When he does, the time for repenting and believing will be past. You need to turn to Jesus not because you will miss out or be separated from family but because Jesus is God the Son incarnate. He is coming as a holy judge and his righteous justice will be executed without mercy upon those who have spurned him.
The Good News For Those In the Ark
For believers, however, as with the Noahic flood, the return of Jesus and associated events are not bad news but good news. Paul says in 1 Thess 4:13–18 that Jesus’ return will be visible and noisy not secret and invisible. The return of the king to his city is hailed with jubilation. It is never hidden or conducted at night.
To the reader who has trusted Christ, his return is good news indeed. This is why Paul says, “according to my gospel” (Rom 2:16). Our comfort is:
That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head, I look for the very same one, who before offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven, who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory (Heidelberg Catechism 52).
Just as the world mocked Jesus as he suffered so they mock now but deliverance is coming. Believer, wrath has been extinguished and your friend and helper comes. Receive him with joy.
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).
Amen brother. On another note, I knew it wasn’t the correct date because the day of the Lord will not come until the apostasy comes first and the church’s witness is silenced. (II Thess. 2:3; Rev.11:7). I plan on preaching the Gospel tomorrow, along with my many comrade pastors in the URC and beyond. Thus, turn down the date setting talk and turn up the Gospel talk, the door of the ark remains open.
Is this apostasy related to Luke 18:8?
It’s a deliberately difficult passage. It’s a rhetorical question but what is the expected answer? My thought is not to read this relative to eschatology but as a challenge to us to believe now.
Hmmm. It never occurred to me but seems like it would fit into what I believe is the direction
of those two texts I referenced and other passages in the NT.
Those guys never learn, do they? Jesus said that no one knows the day nor the hour. So, for a person to successfully guess the day and the hour would mean that Jesus was mistaken. Therefore, to say that one does, in fact, know the day and the hour is to do damage to Jesus’ omniscience as God and to do damage to His veracity – both of which are impossible to hold.
Not to mention the embarrassment to the church among unbelievers when these guys turn out to be wrong, as they inevitably do.
Thank you for making the point to the many who just do not read with understanding, to understand that the flood represents judgment. The flood came and “took” lives. The Lord was simply reiterating to his nation the many old testament passages that depicts the coming “day of the Lord.” There is a lot of believers who believe that the “one is taken and the other left” is talking about the rapture. Jesus was not addressing a rapture. There was no church at that time, he was speaking to the Jews.
Such great peace and joy came from the Word and your exhortation in this post. Thank you Dr. Clark.
If you can recall back to 1988 there was a book released stating that there
were 88 reasons that the rapture would happen that year, one reason was
that it was then the 40th anniversary of Israel becoming a re-established
nation and the literal hermeneutic of dispensational futurism virtually
demanded it because of the way ” this generation ” in Matt. 24 was
interpreted, which should have made it the final generation!, I suppose
the parenthesis continues.
Come 2017 and the dispy’s have been very quiet this year, as you may have
realised that it is the 50th anniversary of the capture of the city of Jerusalem
from Jordan, seeing as it does have a great significance in their dispensational
theological system, the futurist take on Matt. 24, that’s 50 years and a whole
generation has passed away, no (false) 3rd temple, no 7 year peace treaty, no
revived roman empire, definitely no anti-christ to be seen anywhere except for
the Historicist one in the vatican,
then again dispensational futurism may just be a false system of interpretation
that has been foisted upon Scripture, wresting & twisting the prophecies & the various
economies of the covenant of grace of their true meaning
Meade is Harold Camping 2.0. He is a idiot. I knew his September 23 prediction would fail. Guess what, all of his October predictions will fail as well. Planet X Nibiru does not exist. I can’t wait until October 15 and 21st passes so that way he doesn’t do it anymore.
Only God knows when the world will end, not idiot doomsday date setters like Meade and Camping or us.