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© by Rich Kelsey.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any way by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior permission of the copyright holder, except as provided by U.S. copyright law.  ISBN 1-57921-526-2 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002115819

RICH KELSEY

THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

 

Chapter Five
DECEPTION IS ON
THE HORIZON

 

Satan has always worked in subtle ways; getting mankind to doubt his existence is one of his greatest achievements. If he were to let the wicked know he was real, they might put two and two together and realize that Jesus Christ and the judgment day may also be real. The devil will not surrender his best strategy so easily—he will continue to hide his existence even as he torments his victims. Deception is coming on a major scale: Revelation’s pages foretell a time of gross spiritual darkness.

As the horsemen ride throughout the earth, they don’t have the power to kill men directly. To accomplish their goals, Satan and his entourage stir up the minds of their victims and let them go rampaging. Even during the time of trumpets, when demonic activity will reach its peak, much of the world won’t realize they are approaching the midnight hour. The light of the gospel was ignored in the day when laborers were working hard, bringing in the harvest; now the night has come when no man can work.

What lies ahead for mankind is gross spiritual darkness; this will be an age where wickedness abounds. The father of lies is about to herald his greatest lie. Antichrist will have a sales pitch so refined that people will receive his twisted illusions with itching ears. As the clock ticks down, one thing is certain: a new empire will arise with men united in a common cause under the mastery of Satan.

As this planet spins ever closer to the time of Antichrist, earth will reel from the absence of light; men will strive against the Spirit of God. Because many will have abandoned God's laws and pursued wickedness, Satan will be granted his appointed season to commence the ancient plan.

With truth thrown to the ground, the young, the unpracticed, and the half-committed may lose what truth they once held and accept the devil's lies. Satan will sift the unstable ones among us like wheat. The oil in their lamps will wane, and their lights will flicker and dim.

Since the beginning of time, almost every prophet that God has sent into the world to bring deliverance to the people has been put to death by religious people. Once again, the religious throngs will deem God's prophets

"worthy of death" (Mark 14:64).

Christians need to prepare for this.

Jesus said,

"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).

Seven Years on Earth without Church?

Much of orthodox Christianity is convinced that the church will ascend in the Rapture a full seven years before Armageddon, not just seven weeks, as this book explains. These people interpret the symbolic content of Revelation's chapters in such a manner as to void any application to them; for example, much of the church world is sure that Jesus is the male child in Revelation 12; they believe the woman in the same chapter is Mary. People who see this chapter as a representation of Christ's virgin birth some 2,000 years ago scoff at the idea it may have an application to God's faithful.

Even among the Evangelicals, it is generally taught that the two prophets in Revelation 11 are either John the Baptist and Elijah, or Moses and Elijah and the 144,000 of Revelation 7 are National Israel—they do not see the modern Christian church within this symbolism.

2 Thessalonians

"For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed" (2 Thess. 7–8).

The present-day interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 7-8 is one of the reasons the teaching of a seven-year period on earth void of the church is so widespread. The argument goes like this: where the text reads, "the one who now holds it back," this is said to be all the "Spirit-filled" men, women, and children who make up the church. The text goes on to read, "till he is taken out of the way." This is said to depict the removal of all these Christians—in other words, the Rapture of the church.

Sound Teaching Skills—a Small Tangent

While researching doctrine, a teacher should look up every verse pertaining to the subject in question. Upon doing this, one builds a working hypothesis. Some Scriptures at first glance may appear to run contrary to the general theme. Prudent Bible teachers do not use those Scriptures to establish doctrine; they are initially set aside. They first use easier-to-understand proof texts for the foundation until the overall picture comes into view; then after much study, they look into the harder-to-understand verses and bring them into harmony with the general tenor of the main body of evidence. Using this same systematic approach in our study, I have set this Rapture text aside until now: now is the time to bring it into harmony with the general tenor of Scripture:

Several assumptions must be held in order to maintain that this passage in 2 Thessalonians is speaking of the Rapture of the church before the Antichrist reigns. Let's ask ourselves: is there any possibility that Paul was not speaking solely of the church in his discourse? After all, the words he and one do not demand that the church is the principal subject matter.

Throughout the book of Revelation, we see that God has a restraining force in place to keep Satan in check; we also see this force lifted over and over again as the various events of Revelation transpire. As the Lamb breaks each seal of Revelation's seven-sealed scroll, demon spirits are released to go forth upon Earth. Here is a good example of this force being released:

"And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind" (Rev. 9:15).

The same teachers who maintain that the church is what restrains an event from happening in 2 Thessalonians also claim that the church will have ascended in the Rapture years before the four angels of Rev. 9:15 are released. If there's a force left in place after the church is gone that needs to be lifted before an event can take place on Earth, wouldn't that lessen the possibility that the church is the restraining force in 2 Thessalonians?

Let's continue our investigation by taking a good look at the context of these verses in 2 Thessalonians:

"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction" (2 Thess. 2:1–3).

There is strong reason to believe that this warning from Paul starts off speaking about the First Resurrection with the words

"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him." (2 Thess. 2:1–3).

Then Paul shifts his focus to an event that is called "the day of the Lord." When discussing Bible prophecy, the terms day of the Lord and Rapture/Resurrection are not randomly interchanged. The day of the Lord speaks of Christ's coming Kingdom, starting with God's wrath upon earth, while the Rapture precedes God's wrath. The final factor that must be accepted in order to maintain a seven-year period on earth void of the church is that when Paul speaks of "that day" in verse 3, he is speaking of the Rapture from verse 1 and not the day of the Lord from verse 2. If Paul were speaking of the day of the Lord in our text when he penned "that day," this teaching would fail.

The Day of the Lord in Scripture

1. "Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear" (Amos 5:18–19).

2. "A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusa¬lem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped" (Zech. 14:1–2).

3. "The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bit¬ter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness" (Zeph. 14–15).

4. "The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? . . . The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Joel 2:11, 31).

The day of the Lord speaks of a time when the nations are punished. This day also encompasses Christ's return and the commencement of His kingdom. If this is what Paul is referring to in 2 Thessalonians when he penned,

"Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed,"

then Paul was no longer speaking of the Rapture—Paul had moved on and was speaking of Christ's kingdom.

During Paul's day, there was a widespread teaching that maintained the world had entered into the millennial kingdom. Paul was addressing the church, defending against this teaching by expressing that there was yet to come

"the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him."

To strengthen his position, Paul went on to explain that there was another event that must also occur before the day of the Lord, which is the revealing of the "man of lawlessness."

In order for this verse in 2 Thessalonians to make sense, we need to understand that Paul was speaking of two events in his discourse, and once we understand this, this passage in 2 Thessalonians no longer offers proof that the church will be caught up as soon as the Antichrist is revealed. Understanding that Paul was not expressing that the church would be caught up before the Antichrist reigns brings the understanding of this verse into harmony with the rest of the Bible.

Christians—Still on Earth

"And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands" (Rev. 20:4).

Because it is said of them, they "had not received his mark on their foreheads," this demonstrates that these people were still on the earth during Antichrist's reign.

Also:

"And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name" (Rev. 15:2–3).

This verse also shows Christians who had been living on earth during the Antichrist's rule; these souls are now seen in heaven right before the bowls of wrath are poured out. Could this verse demonstrate that they, too, have ascended in the Rapture?

"As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them... He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time" (Dan. 7:21, 25).

This "horn" is Antichrist. The "saints" are all the Christians who make up the church. This word usage in Daniel, "time, times and half a time" and the identical word usage in Rev. 12:12, "time, times and half a time," are speaking of a three-and-a-half-year period in which the Antichrist rules the world. Our text goes on to say,

"Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 12:17).

Most scholarly commentaries on Revelation see the woman in chapter 12 as either the Christian church, and/or National Israel; they also understand her offspring in this passage to be the Christian church. If that is the case, could this last text speak any clearer of Christian persecution during the time of Antichrist's government?

The teaching that Christians will have ascended before Antichrist reigns, as found in the current interpretation of our 2 Thessalonians text, runs contrary to all these Bible verses, whose interpretations are straightforward. It also goes against the teaching of a last trumpet Rapture and violates the whole design of Revelation. The earth will not be void of the church a full seven years before Armageddon. The two witnesses are seen performing miracle-working power as they deliver their testimony, and if the witnesses are an illustration of the church, then surely the church is still on the earth as Revelation's days unfold.

Jesus said,

"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matt. 24:43–44).

With so many awaiting Christ's return, it seems unusual that he could appear when we aren't looking—unless our teachers have misled us by maintaining theories about his return that are in error? It's recorded in Scripture that when many are sure the prophecies concerning Christ's return have failed,

"they will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised?'" (2 Pet. 3:4).

For them,

"the day of the Lord will come like a thief" (2 Pet. 3:10).

In the Days of the Seventh Trumpet

One of the great truths this work established is that the Rapture occurs in the days of the seventh trumpet when it shall begin to sound. It happens right before the bowl plagues are poured out. This understanding has changed the way many of us look at Revelation. Instead of seven years on earth void of the church, Revelation's pages speak of men, women, and children delivering a testimony to the world!

 
As Jesus breaks open the first wax seal of earth's mortgage scroll in heaven, a countdown begins. No one knows this day or hour. Nevertheless, we understand from Scripture that the breaking of the first seal signifies that earth's domain is about to be transferred.

In the Middle of the Final Week—the Messiah Was Cut Off


It only makes sense that something is standing in the way of Christ's kingdom. According to Old Testament prophecy, Christ's ministry was cut off in the middle of the week of years that was needed to fulfill the covenant. With all the pain and suffering in the world, if it was lawful for Jesus to step in and put a stop to the suffering, it would seem likely that he would have by now. There's a reason Christ isn't ruling the earth at this time! He's waiting for the final three and a half years of legal testimony to be delivered through His spiritual body:

"This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:32).

Three and One-Half Years


Within the Book of Revelation there are several places where a period of three and a half years is recorded:

1. "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months" (Rev. 13:5).

2. "The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach" (Rev. 12:14).

3. "But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them" (Rev. 11:11).

"Forty-two months," "three and a half days," "time, times and half a time," and "1,260 days," are all terms depicting a three-and-a-half-year time frame. Some people put two of these periods back to back and get a seven-year time frame. This is a possible interpretation, because in Revelation 11, it's recorded that the two witnesses prophesy for 1,260 days, and then they are killed and their bodies lie in the street for three and a half days. The term three and a half days in our text is probably speaking of the three-and-a-half-year period that Antichrist reigns. However, let's use common sense here: within Revelation's chapters, events overlap; sometimes an event is mentioned, and then the reader is brought back in time to focus on elements of that event from a different perspective. Everything in chapter 11 is not as cut and dried as it appears. The time frame represents events that are impossible to put in a finite framework.

Stealing the Calling

Perhaps Satan's greatest triumph lies in stealing the calling that we have found in God's Word. Satan knows he can't remove us from the Master's hand, so instead he focuses on sidetracking us to forsake the Master's plan. Satan works within and without the church, desperately seeking to corrupt the gospel. He's the source of bitter waters—corrupt teachings that lead men astray. The pure water of the Word cleanses the soul. Righteous teaching brings forth good fruit and a bountiful harvest. But when the church receives false teaching, it's a detriment to the body. At this very hour, Satan is lashing out in an attempt to hinder the growing kingdom of Christ where it matters the most—by influencing us to abandon the Great Commission. If the devil can stop the mouths of the prophets, he can choke the wellspring of life from the movement.

Deception is on the horizon! Souls are hanging in the balance. Millions are standing on the brink of eternity. Satan and his angels are pushing hard, focusing all their effort on deceiving the minds of men and then keeping them in deception. Satan desires to condemn as many as possible to the same fate he's facing by influencing them to believe things that will lead to their spiritual destruction. Without the light of truth, it will be impossible for some to see through the coming darkness.

Christ Is Calling Us to Warn the World

The most consequential theme Revelation holds is that we, as a unified body, have a ministry to fulfill in these last days. Keeping this vision fresh in our hearts will keep us open to the moving of God's Spirit. The Spirit will lead us. The Spirit will teach us. The Spirit will give us words to speak as we bring forth our testimony. Jesus said,

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).

 

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