Paul Thought Jesus Was Coming Really, Really Soon

Name just about any generation of Christians, and you’ll find that those Christians suspected they were living in the “end times” when the events of prophetic passages such as Matthew chapters 24 and 25 and the entire book of The Revelation were beginning. Certainly this current generation of Christians has that suspicion. But did you know that even the apostle Paul felt that way about his day?

I’ll cite two passages on this topic, the first one being 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. In those verses, Paul describes the Rapture as follows:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (N.K.J.V.)

You’ll note Paul’s use of the word “we” there in reference to the Christians who would be alive to experience the Rapture. That’s pretty conclusive evidence that he thought he would be in that group. Please understand, though, that Paul’s erroneous expectation doesn’t invalidate either his ministry or his prophetic word about the Rapture. It just shows that God chose not to correct Paul’s assumption. As for why God played it that way, perhaps He wanted Paul to exemplify the fact that every Christian who is alive on the earth during any era should have the mindset, “The Rapture must be going to take place very, very soon.”

The second passage I’ll cite as evidence of Paul’s expectation is 1 Corinthians 7:26-33. As you read these verses, see if you can pick up on what Paul is implying about getting married. Trust me, it’s not hard to figure out. The verses say:

Because of the present crisis, I think it is best to remain as you are.  If you have a wife, do not seek to end the marriage. If you do not have a wife, do not seek to get married.  But if you do get married, it is not a sin. And if a young woman gets married, it is not a sin. However, those who get married at this time will have troubles, and I am trying to spare you those problems. But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.  I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. (N.L.T.)

In light of Paul’s mindset about the end of time, his thoughts about marriage make perfect sense, don’t they? I mean, if Jesus really is coming to snatch His people away from this world sometime in the next few days or weeks, each Christian would be wise to spend his or her remaining time serving Jesus to the extreme. And since it takes a great deal of time and effort to make a marriage work, that’s time and effort that could be used in prayer, Bible study, and evangelism instead.

Today we are hearing a lot of talk about how we must be living in the absolute final days just prior to the Rapture. Well, maybe we are. That’s definitely a possibility. Then again, Paul was thinking this same thing when he wrote his letters we call 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, and some 2,000 years have passed since then. I’m just pointing that out.

With this in mind, I would advise you to continue making your mortgage payments and car payments, and don’t quit your job in order to spend all your time sitting on a mountaintop praying and fasting. As is the case with so many things, what we must have in this area is balance, the type of balance that will enable us to live wisely for the Lord in this world even as we confidently expect the one to come. Admittedly, this is not an easy balance to strike, but it’s one that we can strike with God’s help. And it’s one that we must strike if we want to navigate the waters of our lives in a manner pleasing to Him. To live any other way is to either shortchange the imminence of the Rapture or shortchange God’s will for our earthly lives.

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