September 4, 2015 Brethren Letter
We’ll be observing the Feast of Trumpets this year on Monday, September 14th. God’s Holy Day is just a few days away. The Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Jesus Christ coming to this earth to rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Tonight, I’m sending an article written by Mr. Garfield Gregoire in 2011. The title of his article is “How Close are we to the Return of Jesus Christ?”
Please have a good Sabbath, everyone!
Sincerely, Your Brother in Christ,
How CLOSE are we to the Return of Christ?
By: Garfield Gregoire
An awesome and earth shaking event is going to occur on planet earth. This event will be as Mr. Herbert Armstrong said, “The greatest EVENT to take place in the universe”. The majestic, supernatural descent of Jesus Christ to this earth is to become an all inspiring reality.
But, when and HOW is this going to HAPPEN? It behooves us to consider this matter.
There are many religionists who believe that Christ is going to return to earth, but do not really understand how that coming is going to be, and what is prophesied to happen. Before we get to the matter of just how close we are to the return of Christ, let us first consider the matter of the rapture belief or theory.
Mr. Armstrong has often pointed out that people tend to assume things without proving for themselves whether their belief is based on truth, or on what the Bible really teaches. In the case of the RAPTURE THEORY, millions of professing Christians believe or assume that Christ’s second coming will be secret – by which the righteous will be taken to heaven and all of the wicked or any non-Christians will be left on the earth to suffer.
This writer recently came in contact with a man who adamantly expressed his belief in a secret rapture. He was so passionately convinced of this belief that it appeared futile for anyone to try and dissuade him from believing or seeing it any other way; and for this reason, this writer did not seek to engage in an “argument” with the individual.
The common belief among fundamentalists is that Christ will return invisibly or in secret, to take away the Church before the Great Tribulation. The belief proposes that Christ will suddenly come down out of heaven and remain above the earth (not setting foot upon it). From there He will gather or rapture all the righteous into heaven. However, is this really so? Does the Bible teach that millions of people are going to be raptured away or taken to heaven at the second coming of Jesus Christ?
This belief in the rapture is not based on what the WORD of God really says. In Matthew 24, Jesus plainly taught that there will be GREAT supernatural signs to mark His entry upon the world’s stage. Notice verse 29, 30:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
How plain are the words of Jesus Christ! Here Christ makes known that every living human being on the earth is actually going to see this awesome heavenly supernatural sign and know that HE is coming to the earth.
The world has not understood that Jesus Christ is coming to establish and set up the government and the Kingdom of God on earth. In their blindness, men have overlooked such scriptures as Daniel, chapters 2 and 7 – which clearly proves that Jesus Christ is coming to set up the rule of God on the earth. For example, Daniel 2:44 says, “And in the days of these kings (referring to the revived Roman Empire now taking place in our time now), shall the God of heaven set up a Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
Mainstream Christianity has also overlooked Isaiah 9:6 – which prophetically speaks of Christ – saying, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder …” They do not realize that Christ is coming as world ruler – to set up the Kingdom of God on the earth; they do not understand that Christ will be sitting upon the throne of David to rule and administer the righteous judgment of God over mankind.
Mainstream Christianity does not talk about the government of God in all of their preaching and teaching about the person of Jesus Christ; instead, they preach a false doctrine about “going to heaven”.
In an article published in May 31, 2007 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Billy Graham said, “My greatest comfort comes from knowing that I belong to Christ, and that no matter what happens, he will never leave me or forsake me. He will be with me as long as I’m on this Earth, and some-day I will go to be with him in heaven forever. I look forward to that day.”
It is true that our greatest comfort comes from God, but little would Mr. Graham know that going to heaven to be with God forever is not what the Bible teaches. Mr. Graham’s words sound very nice and appealing, but being in heaven with God for all eternity does not figure into the overall plan of God.
How is Christ going to COME?
There are many professing Christians who believe Jesus Christ will come at any time. They often profess that He can come today, tomorrow, or next week. As a boy growing up, this writer would often hear preachers loudly proclaiming that Christ could come at any moment and one should therefore take the opportunity to now repent, and be saved.
A preacher by the name of John R. Rice (1895-1980) expressed the belief that Christ could come anytime; here is what he said in a sermon entitled, Jesus May Come Today: “Yes, JESUS may come today! The coming of Christ to the earth is imminent: it may occur any moment, day or night!
There is not a single event prophesied in the Bible which must come to pass before the Saviour returns. As far as we can know, no event, either political, economic or spiritual, need occur before Jesus comes. Not another war need be declared, not another gospel sermon preached, not another soul be saved, as far as can be told from the Scriptures, before the Saviour comes to catch up His saints into the air for the marriage supper in Heaven.
And I do not mean that signs of the Saviour’s coming show that it is likely to be soon. Some say that Jesus must come soon because the little modern nation Israel is established in Palestine. I do not believe that is the restoration of Israel promised in the Bible. I do not believe one can tell from that even approximately when Jesus will come. I do not believe that wars, earthquakes, dictatorships, communism, or modernism are signs that Christ will come at any predictable time or within any given generation. My conviction is that we should look for Christ’s coming simply because He said to look for His coming.
We should not look for Christ’s coming because of meteor showers or because of numerals found in the bible and mistakenly applied to reckon when Christ will return. The Millerites went wrong on that in 1842. We should not presume that with a tape measure we can measure a passage in the great pyramid in Egypt and, making an inch mean a year, find when Jesus will come. British-Israelites were made a laughing stock by that false premise nearly twenty years ago. I know one who thus set a date for Christ’s return and is now a scoffing infidel. No, let us stop looking in the newspapers for signs of Christ’s coming and simply believe Christ may come at any moment because He said so.
At any moment we may expect Christians to be caught up into the air to meet Christ in the first promised phase of His second coming. We do not know when. We bring reproach on the blessed hope by speculations, but we can watch because Jesus said we should.”
As you read through this, we see that this man’s preaching and teaching is not in tune with what the Bible teaches about the second coming of Jesus Christ. This man’s teaching is contrary to Matthew 24 – which tells us of those events that not only show how close we are to the return of Jesus Christ, but what must also be fulfilled before Christ returns to the earth.
The Bible reveals that certain major prophetic events are to take place first before Jesus Christ returns. For example, we know that that there must be a formation or union of ten nations to come out of the current European Union (Revelation 17:12). We also know that the Gospel would be proclaimed to all the world as a witness to the nations – as this was done by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (Matthew 24:14). Also in II Thessalonians 2:3, the apostle Paul makes it clear that Christ would not return “except there come a falling away first …”.
As previously quoted from Matthew 24:29-30, Jesus explained that it would be AFTER the Great Tribulation when God would intervene in world affairs. In Revelation 6:12 we read: “… when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.” If we read further in verse 17, it tell us “For the great day of His wrath is come …”
This is the time signifying that God is now going to pour out plagues upon this earth for its evil. The book of Joel prophesied of this very event: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:31).
But, what happens next?
In Revelation 8 we see that after the seventh seal had been opened, seven angels were given seven trumpets. As we read along, we see that as each angel blew the trumpet, with God’s judgment being poured out upon the earth.
Here is what Mr. Armstrong says: “The first four of these trumpet-plagues are described in chapter 8 as winds that blow on the earth, trees, rivers, and seas. You will read that in verses 6 through 12, chapter 8 of the Book of Revelation. The last three trumpets are called woes, because of the terrible woe that shall befall the forces of evil on earth. This is stated in the 13th and last verse of chapter 8.
The first woe, which is also the fifth trumpet, is described in chapter 9, verses 1-11. The power that causes the destruction, this time to men, comes out of the symbolic “bottomless pit.” This is interpreted in Revelation 17:8-14. There we learn that a rebirth of the ancient Roman EMPIRE is the power which emerges out of “the bottomless pit” or abyss–a condition of underground existence not visible to the world. Verse 7 shows this FUTURE power will be a WAR-making, revived fascist power. It is described in prophecy as a power to the NORTH of the Holy Land, because the prophecies always speak from the focal point of the Holy Land–to the north, and west.
The second woe, with its symbols of horses and horsemen, is interpreted by Ezekiel 38:4, 15, and is also referred to as an event in the Day OF THE Eternal in Joel 2:4. This refers to a tremendous military power–also to the NORTH–due north! They come with an army of two hundred million! Think of it–an army of two hundred million!
World events are now moving rapidly to make possible the creation of a Communist Eurasian army of that unbelievable manpower! Yes, it’s time to wake up to what’s taking place today–the true significance of the time in which we live, and where it is leading.”
Notice the moment that marks the actual return of Christ to the earth: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The KINGDOMS of this world are become the kingdoms of our LORD and of his CHRIST and HE shall reign forever and ever.”
Christ comes at the sounding of the final trumpet blast; this announces his coming to set up the Kingdom of God and to rule over the earth. This last trumpet is referred to in I Corinthians 15: 51-52 – where it states: “We shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” Also I Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God …”
Jesus Christ shall at last return to earth with all of His saints, made immortal – born as members of the God family. The returning Christ shall not seek to disappear somewhere back up into the heavens. But, what will He do? Notice the answer in Zechariah 14:4: “And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives …” The Mount of Olives is where Christ shall descend with all those who had been made immortal members of the God family.
How Near are we to the Return of Christ?
Jesus made it very clear that no man knows the time of His coming (Matthew 24:36). The real understanding is very clear to our thinking, and yet there are men who would seek to set dates for Christ’s return – only to be shamefully proven wrong. It is somewhat baffling as to why men choose to ignore the words of Jesus Christ and go on to try and convince people that they know the time or day of his coming. It is utterly unbiblical for any human to try to set a date for the second coming of Christ.
But what then can we know about the nearness of Christ’s second coming? How can we know? Did Christ himself give any indication?
Indeed, God has not at all left us in the dark – as to the signs of the times and what it all means in relationship to Christ’s coming.
Matthew 24:3 records that as Jesus sat upon the Mount of Olives, His disciples spoke to him saying: “… what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Apart from giving the many signs of other events that were to occur on down through time – such as false preachers coming in His name and preaching a false gospel about the person of Christ; war and rumors of wars, with nations rising up against nations; famine and earthquakes (verse 5, 6, 7). Jesus declared in verse 14 of a major sign marking the end. Notice what he said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
The preaching of the gospel to the nations of the world is God’s great sign to God’s Church that the end of this present civilization is near. It was Mr. Armstrong who fulfilled this scripture – by taking the gospel to the world. And we need to understand that this prophecy is not for the world at large but mainly for God’s Church – for I Corinthians 14: 22, tells us that “prophesy serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
The preaching of the gospel around the world by Mr. Armstrong to the time he died – marks the fact that we are now in a definite period of time for world events to unfold – leading up to the very return of Jesus. Those who would question whether or not Mr. Armstrong fulfilled this great commission have not realized this very fact.
So, now we see that Christ gave his own answer as to the sign of his second coming.
In addition, notice another simple, yet stunning statement Christ gave in the very same chapter of Matthew 24. Notice verse 32 and 33: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that is near, even at the doors.”
Notice how Christ said we can know that the time of His second coming is near. When we see the prophesied world events coming to pass, we can know that the time of His second coming is at hand. From God’s perspective, we are to see that the death of Mr. Armstrong (on the basis that he fulfilled the mission of preaching the gospel) – along with the prophesied world events – are the very indicator that Christ’s return is at hand; that it is very near – even at the door!
Mr. Armstrong held the belief that world events will happen suddenly and catch the world off guard. He described it as a rat being caught in a trap that is suddenly snapped shut.
We live in a time when a world crisis could occur and suddenly plunge the entire globe into a time of trouble and distress; a time that will suddenly push the American and British people into the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) – or that which is commonly known as the Great Tribulation.
Yes, world events are unfolding – leading up to the greatest event in the universe – the second coming of Jesus Christ; and based on Christ’s own prophetic revelation, we know that the hour is at hand, and that we are very close to that earth-shaking event of Christ’s return.
Soon the supernatural signs are going to be revealed in the heavens; God’s people are going to see the moon turning into blood and the sun not giving its rays of light; the stars will be falling from the heavens. At the time of Christ’s entry into the earth’s atmosphere, the dead shall begin to rise up out of their graves, and we who are alive shall join them – being caught up to meet Christ in a glorious union of unbridled joy and happiness.
Yes, we are close now to Christ’s second coming. We are very near to that glorious event as it comes more and more into focus. As God’s people, we are to remain faithful by anchoring ourselves to the truth once delivered through His end-time servant Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. May God help us to endure to the very end, and to that eventful day – the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ.