Given all the signs of the times we are seeing, whilst simultaneously living through the time of the signs, it is becoming easier to ask God why He has yet to return. You’ve asked Him. I’ve asked Him. And it’s not wrong to ask. In fact, it’s natural for us to want to know when we will be leaving. Just as natural as kids on a road trip ask their parents, “Are we there yet?”
Many are asking then, how many more abominations, atrocities, and apostasies do we have to endure before we see our promised deliverance? How many murdered children and terrorist attacks do we have to bear witness to before God finally judges this world and restores righteousness to it? How many blasphemous and wicked celebrations that our own governments are mandating do we have to tolerate before we are taken up? Even non-believers are beginning to ask these questions because the scale of wickedness only seems at a tipping point.
If you are uncertain on this point, the Bible is absolutely clear that there will be a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church. Don’t let anyone rob of you that blessed hope (Titus 2:13, Rev. 3:11). If the Rapture wasn’t before the Tribulation, and the church (not the Jews or the Tribulation saints) were expected to go through it, the New Testament would be replete with guidance for the church on how to survive it. In particular, the epistles would be replete with guidance on how to navigate through the 21 divinely appointed judgments God unleashes upon the world.
Instead of writing about how to be a Christian and looking for Christ's return; Paul, James, Peter, and John would be talking about looking for this coming “man of sin” who will take over the entire world. They would be laying out steps the church could take to weather the coming storm. They would give instruction on how to survive in a world that is wholly given over to Satan without restraint.
Strangely, there is no such guidance found in the Bible from the book of Acts through Revelation 4:1.
Remember, Noah wasn’t rescued during the Flood. Lot wasn’t told to hunker down and endure through the fire and brimstone storm. No, their deliverance was always before, not during, or after.
Even Abraham asked that pivotal question in Genesis 18:25-
Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Of course, we know what happened. In fact, the angels delivering Lot told him they couldn’t allow the judgment to begin UNTIL Lot was safely removed. It is the exact same scenario with Noah. There was ample opportunity for anyone who wanted to avoid the coming judgment to get on board the ark before God closed the doors. I imagine at the outset there were probably many who listened to Noah’s preaching at first. The Apostle Peter states that Noah was a “preacher of righteousness,” (2 Peter 2:5) and this presumes Noah had an audience to preach to. By that reasoning, there would have been many converts at the beginning who believed Noah of a coming judgment. They would have listened intently as he echoed Enoch’s earlier warnings of the coming judgments. These early converts may have even helped him at the start.
Just as death is the great equalizer, time is the great desensitizer. As the days turned into weeks, and the months into years, the ark was slowly being built. Those people who had turned out at the first began to lose interest and drifted back into their old lives. In their leaving, they would miss out on seeing the great signs marking the nearness of the coming judgment. Those signs being the supernatural gathering of all the different kinds of animals that began assembling at the ark.
By the time the ark was complete, and all the provisions and animals were on board, the crowds that used to stand and listen to old Noah preaching had all disappeared. All that remained were his wife, his sons, and their wives. I imagine it broke Noah’s heart to know that all those who had been so eager to help at the first, were no longer anywhere to be found. With sadness, he would enter the ark and God closed the doors behind him. (Gen. 7:16)
"According to Revelation 1:11, the book was written to seven congregations in Asia, modern Turkey. For 2,000 years, scholars have wondered why such an important message would be sent to these churches since they weren’t even the most important of their day, let alone now…The answer lies in the realization that the letters of chapters 2 and 3 have a representative as well as a specific purpose. They can be read with four levels of application.
The first level is historical. These seven churches really existed, and each was experiencing the particular problem to which the Lord referred as He dictated the letters to John. Second, since all the churches were to read all the letters, the letters were also admonitory to all. Third, since both the challenge and promise with which each letter ends are personal rather than corporate, the letters were for individuals as well as congregations. And fourth, read in the order in which they appear they outline church history and so are prophetic. They chronicle the gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy." (Daniel 9:24-27) (GracethruFaith)
Some of these things have been on my mind as of late, and I don’t want to come across as dogmatic regarding them. Not everyone believes that the Seven Churches in Revelation are prophetically significant. However, the late Jack Kelley, myself, and many others believe they are. To Jack’s last point, in keeping with the prophetic order of the seven churches as they are given, I believe they are representative of the seven great epochs (Revelation 1-3) the church has undergone since Christ ascended.
I would add that even the Philadelphian Church age could be broken down into four arenas (my opinion). Furthermore, since the promise of physical deliverance was given only to this Philadelphian church, this church will endure even when the Laodicean era begins. (Scriptural emphasis is mine)
Part 1: The Great Awakening (1730-1760)
(Notables- Theodore Frelinghuysen, Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield)
This kicked off the four-fold stage of the Philadelphian church. The first Great Awakening, not only brought revival amongst the dead/dying protestant churches in the American colonies (representative of the Sardis Church Age), but it also helped lay the philosophical and theological foundation of a new nation that was about to born. The United States would become a beacon of religious liberty and freedom from then, until today. To this day, the door has not yet been shut.
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Rev. 3:7
Part 2: The Second Great Awakening (1795-1830)
(Notables- William Carey, John N. Darby, Barton Stone, Lyman Beecher, Charles G. Finney)
This period not only saw the explosion of Christian missionary efforts begin to span the globe, but it also saw a rejection of the dead, mainline Protestantism which had since grown cold and passionless. There was a great desire for the church to return a historical, grammatical, and literal reading of the Word of God. In doing so, the church began to wake up (spiritually speaking) and the Dispensationalist movement began.
As often accused, John N. Darby did not create dispensationalism out of thin air. He simply codified centuries of pre-existent teaching regarding what the Bible has taught all along. In doing so, the church began to realize three things: the gospel needed to go out into the entire world, the Church was not Israel, and the end of the age was close at hand. Unfortunately, Satan countered by stifling this revivalism with an explosion of Christian cults, which began to obfuscate the truth amongst those seeking God (Mormons, Millerites, etc.)
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Rev. 3:8
Part 3: The Third Great Awakening (1857-1920)
(Notables- D.L. Moody, William Booth, Billy Sunday, Charles Spurgeon, C.I. Scofield, Clarence Larkin)
The last great awakening in our nation would mark the end of the dominance Christianity had on the culture at large. From here on out, smaller and less impactful revivals would crisscross the nation, but nothing like those previous ones had done. This was a period of great transition in the nation, not only literally, but spiritually as well. The nation was transitioning out of the Civil War era, westward expansion, and World War I, and into the modernized Industrial Age.
Because of these major shifts in the nation and the world at large, eastern mysticism and human secularism began to flood into the West. Christendom began to suffer a rift between the “Modernists” and the Fundamentalists primarily due to scientism and the promotion of Darwinian Evolution. More and more cults and pseudo-Christian groups came out claiming to be God’s chosen people (the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.) This growing anti-Semitism would peak with the German Third Reich and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Rev. 3:9
Part IV: Philadelphia in the Laodicean Age (1945-Present)
(Notables- Billy Graham, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Smith)
After our victory in World War II, America underwent several decades of wealth and affluence, which turned out to be disastrous to the spiritual well-being of the nation. Complacency once again set in, and the decades-old seeds of socialism were just beginning to yield their first crops of neo-Marxists throughout the universities and seminaries. These atheists, agnostics, and skeptics would go on to high positions within the media, Hollywood, and government, and began using their bully pulpits to silence and scorn Christianity. The church (collectively) had entered into the Laodicean age.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Rev. 3:14-18
Yet, at the same time, God countered by creating the largest open door for the gospel to go out in the history of mankind. Men like Billy Graham had audiences in the billions. Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” was the bestselling book for an entire decade (the 1970s). Tim LaHaye, of the Left Behind series namesake (which sold over 65 million books), and the countless online ministries, which continue to share the gospel worldwide were still having a great outreach for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But even with this great open door, the Church has had less influence now, than it ever has. Furthermore, churches of all denominations are dying off at a rapid pace (esp. since the COVID lockdowns) and are not being replaced. Many of the churches that do remain, are acquiescing to a culture in rapid decline so as to stay “relevant.” Many are embracing clearly anti-biblical positions such as homosexual clergy, critical race theory, socialism, anti-Semitism, eastern mysticism, and human secularism.
For the first time in church history, a seeming majority of churches (at least in the west) no longer see salvation as either being necessary, or exclusive to Christianity. Biblical evangelicals and fundamentalists are increasingly being put into smaller and smaller corners by which to live and function. We are increasingly considered “fringe” and “extreme” for simply holding to the same biblical standards that have always been. Note the promise to Philadelphia, and note the corresponding warning to Laodicea.
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Revelation 3:10-11
Therefore, if my theory is true, then we (of the Philadelphian church) are truly are on the cusp of our great deliverance. In our deliverance, Christ is also about the spit out those who are amongst our ranks that are simply either going through the motions or are purposely attempting to sabotage the few remaining churches.
How much longer you ask? Are we there yet?
And while I can’t set a date (because I don’t know it) I believe we are in the Season of His return.
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Rev. 3:3