Biblical prophecy has not been given to satisfy our various curiosities, such as, who is the Antichrist; or even to answer many of our questions, such as, is this the end of the end times? As we have noted on numerous occasions in these Scofield Prophecy articles, biblical prophecy is to assist us in shaping how we think and live right now. While informing us of the future, it has been given to assist us to live in the present. Prophecy is designed to create in us a “two-world view”, which is a biblical worldview. We are to live with excellence in this world (culture) by keeping an eye on our Lord’s coming (the world to come). This is the way apostles and prophets consistently taught prophetic themes. Prophecy is to impact our thinking and our decision making today. And so, when James in his book does the same thing, it is no surprise. What may be a surprise to some of us is that James (which is not normally viewed as a prophetic book) brings in an important prophetic element into his letter. Recently, I was reading through the book of James, and James 5:7-9 caught my attention. As James brings his letter to an end, he tells these believers who are dealing with the trials and the temptations of life to not forget the Rapture event. Those verses say:
“Be patient, therefore, brethren until the coming of the Lord. Behold the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil. Being patient about it, until it gets the early and the late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”
These believers were real people and not cardboard cutouts or unreal products of social media. They, just like us, were facing the challenges that come from living in a fallen world and in a culture that simply doesn’t like Jesus or His followers. There are at least four truths that we can take away from these verses about the coming of the Lord Jesus.
(1) Only the Lord Himself knows the “best” time for the Rapture.
James appeals to his readers that they patiently wait for the Lord’s return as they deal with the pressures, trials and temptations in the Christian life. We are, he says, to be “longsuffering”. Often, when life gets hard, we want the Lord to come and get us and take us home. “Get us out of this trouble” is our prayer. In my years in the Christian college classroom, I observed an increased desire in the students for the Rapture, as final exams came upon them! Such an attitude is not, of course, limited to college students heading into exams. But sometimes our troubles make us impatient and not patient, and James exhorts us to be patient. We need to trust the absolute wisdom of the Lord. Like the experienced farmer, He knows when the best time will be for harvesting. We observe life with all the sin, hardships and rebellion against the Lord, and we conclude that now is the best time. But clearly, the “best” time has not yet come. I am not a farmer, but I do have some citrus trees in my backyard. I used to pick the fruit as soon as it looked ripe. But in more recent years, I have learned that it is better to let the fruit stay on the trees a little longer because then it becomes a little sweeter and the harvest is much better.
Jesus knows everything actual and possible and He knows the exact, best moment for the Rapture. It is true that the setting we are in looks like we are Rapture ready. And we just might be. But only He knows when everything that must be in place is in place. So, we trust Him on this matter and live life, and yet keep one eye on the heavens where Jesus will be coming from (Phil. 3:20).
(2) Our belief in the Rapture should help us be more careful in our relationships with other believers in Christ.
One of the results of believing in the Rapture is that it is to create a new level of patience and kindness towards other believers. It seems that when life has become very hard and difficult for us, we tend to be impatient with others, including our sisters and brothers in Christ. Trials tax us and we are not so longsuffering. We are exhorted not to complain (“groan” or “sigh heavily”). This might be stimulated by our belief that the other believers are not having to endure the level of trials and painful experiences that we are going through. Or perhaps, they just happen to be nearest to us and so receive the outpouring of our frustrations. But whatever the situation, we are encouraged to recall that “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus”. And practically, we are to resist the temptation to gripe and complain about other believers. Have you had that experience?
(3) Our belief in the Rapture should help us to be faithful to the Lord and, therefore, persevere in our times of trial and temptation.
Just as the experienced farmer knows that harvest time is coming, so the believer needs to remind himself/herself that our best days are ahead of us. Peter reminded his readers (1 Peter 1:6) that the tough times do bring “distress” but they are just for “a little while.” We all know that trials, and their accompanying temptations, are never in the “fun” category, but we also know that great blessing is ahead for us, in the form of being with Christ and being rewarded by Christ. The truth of the Rapture is to assist us in being faithful to the Lord and to persevere in tough times. It really will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Regarding Jesus, as Hebrews 12:2 states, who for the joy that lay ahead for Him, endured the Cross. He really is our great example of this point. There is joy and blessing on the other side of trials and the painful experiences of life.
(4) Our belief in the Rapture should help us remember that we might be just minutes away from our time of evaluation at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
James also reminds us that our time before the Judgment Seat of Christ may be closer than we think. We do rightly believe in the “imminent” (any moment) return of the Lord Jesus at the Rapture. But sometimes we forget that the Rapture is followed immediately by our time of evaluation and rewarding at the Judgment Seat (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12). In a striking bit of imagery, James says that Judge Jesus’ hand is right on the handle of the door that leads into the courtroom, and He could open it suddenly at any moment. No event must come first. No period of time must come first. And when He pulls that door open, then the time of judgment will commence. Our belief in the any moment coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is a well-founded belief. But that belief is to translate into a life that is focused on faithfully living for and serving Christ.
So, it might be good for each of us to listen to the insightful and authoritative words of James, and ask ourselves how we are doing on each of these vital points. Clearly, we are one year closer now than we were a year ago to the fulfillment of these events. Even so, come Lord Jesus.