Dr Philip Cheong is writing a book about the Endtimes. He has graciously allowed me to post it here.
Read Chapter One , Chapter Two, and Chapter Three

THE MIDNIGHT CRY

THE END IS NEAR BUT NOT YET – Chapter 4

6 April 2012

Song – “The Midnight Cry” Recording by: John Starnes

Verse 1

I hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind

And it’s closer now than it’s ever been

I can almost hear the trumpet as Gabriel sounds the call

At the midnight cry when Jesus comes again.

Chorus

When Jesus steps out on a cloud to call his children

The dead in Christ shall rise to meet Him in the air

And then those that remain will be quickly changed

At the midnight cry when Jesus comes again.

Verse 2

As I look around me I see prophecies fulfilling

The signs of the times you know they’re appearing everywhere

I can almost hear the Father as he says “Son, go get my children”

At the midnight cry, when Jesus comes again.

Ending

At the midnight cry when Jesus comes again,

when Jesus comes again

…when Jesus comes again.

 A JEWISH WEDDING

Let me invite you to a Jewish wedding.

A wedding ceremony in Israel today

Matthew 25:1-13 Amplified Bible (AMP)

THEN THE kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent). For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them; But the wise took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps. While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep.

But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom! Go out to meet him!

Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise replied, There will not be enough for us and for you; go instead to the dealers and buy for yourselves.

But while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came and said, Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us! But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you].

Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.

The Subject of the Parable

·       Christ was referring to His second coming (refer to Matthew 24)

·       He comes to reward the faithful servants and punish the unfaithful servants

·       Christ’s return will be delayed

The Simplicity of the Parable

·      The wedding

·      The bridesmaids

·      The bridegroom

·      The warning
                                                        
THE WEDDING  

In the parable, everything was ready for the wedding to start. The bridegroom had prepared a home. He was now coming to take his bride to their new home. The bride and all the bridesmaids would be there waiting for him. He would come at night so that the procession (with torches and singing) through the village could be enjoyed by everyone. Then the wedding party would go to the couple’s house, where the celebration would continue for as long as seven days.

THE BRIDESMAIDS

Bridesmaids are called “virgins” (Gk., parthenos, refers to an unmarried girl who is a virgin) simply because bridesmaids were usually virgins in those days. So, there is nothing significant about bridesmaids being virgins. Jesus wasn’t saying that all ten virgins were moral people; their virginity was not symbolic of their spiritual state.

People married young in Bible times, and the bridesmaids were young girls who were sisters, cousins, or close friends of the bride. It is a joy and a privilege for them to attend the bride and wait in anticipation of the glorious evening when the bridegroom would come.

Ten bridesmaids was a customary number; Jewish people favoured the number ten. For example, it took ten men to constitute a synagogue.

We may interpret that the ten virgins represent Christians who are waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Outwardly all ten Christians appear to have the same profession of faith in Christ. The inward reality proves otherwise; five are wise but five are foolish. Wisdom and foolishness manifests itself in how prepared you are for Christ’s return.

THE BRIDEGROOM

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS THE BRIDEGROOM WHO IS COMING FOR HIS BRIDE (the Elect or God’s people).         

Matthew 25:13 English Standard Version (ESV)

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matthew 7:21-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

I Never Knew You

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’                  

          
Conclusion

A parable is a story which illustrates one or more instructive principles. The general principle of interpretation is that each parable illustrates one main principle. So, what is the main message of this parable?

Be prepared in advance for the return of Jesus Christ. You cannot rely on last minute preparation. When the ‘door’ is shut, it is shut, it will not be reopened as in the days of Noah, God shut the door. There is a finality in this.

Make sure you know Jesus personally, but more importantly, make sure Jesus knows you.

Of course, Jesus knows me, you may say. He created me and He knows everything about me. Are you certain Jesus knows you personally? Is there a friendship between you and Jesus?

I am sure everyone in Australia says they know the Queen of England. They have seen her on TV, have seen her in person, have given her a ‘bunch’ of flowers, have even spoken to her. However, do you think the Queen of England knows them personally? Would she recognise them in the street?  It is one thing to say ‘I know the Queen’; it is another thing to say ‘the Queen knows me’. For the Queen to know me I need to either have a relationship or friendship with her.

Similarly, we need to have a relationship or friendship with our Lord Jesus for Him to know me. Our friendship with Jesus is forged through our obedience to Him (John 14:21) and our suffering for Him, the King of Kings, the soon coming Messiah. (Phi 3:8-11).

John 14:21 English Standard Version (ESV)

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Philippians 3:8-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith­  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Knowing Jesus intellectually is not the same as Jesus knowing you. How is your relationship with Jesus? Do you think He knows you?

Footnote:

What does the ‘oil’ represent?

The oil should probably not be allegorized. Many commentaries frequently give suggestions that take it to refer to such things as good works, faith, grace, or the Holy Spirit, etc.  However, such suggestions are not consistent with the parable because none of these can be purchased. The five foolish virgins managed to purchase the oil at the last minute and yet they were rejected. 

We should not attempt to milk more than what the parable offers. Remember, a parable is an illustration with one main message. There are many other parables that Jesus told with different and additional messages. There is no necessity to interpret what the oil represents.

As far as this parable is concerned, let us be satisfied with the one main message that the Lord Jesus intends for us: be prepared for His return.

How to prepare?

How and what to prepare is an issue that we all need to grapple with. The way you prepare depends on whether you believe Jesus will return before the great tribulation or after the great tribulation.

A.  PRE-TRIBULATION

A belief that the ‘rapture’  will occur before the great tribulation. (rapture is derived from the Latin rapio which means to seize or to snatch.  At the rapture, Jesus will come to ‘snatch’ His people from this earth.

Let me consider some Bible verses used to support this belief:

1.     Revelation 4:1-2 English Standard Version (ESV)

 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

 Some Bible teachers allegorize that  Apostle John represents the Church and that “come up here” represents the rapture.

This interpretation is not sound. John was in the Spirit; he did not literally go up to heaven. Christian tradition holds that he outlived the remaining apostles and ultimately died of natural causes “in great old age in Ephesus” at the beginning of the second century.

2.     1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

This is a key reference for the rapture; there is no indication that it will happen before the great tribulation, except that it will happen when the trumpet sounds (it will be a noisy and visible event: a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, sound of the trumpet, definitely not silent and secret).

1 Thessalonians 1:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 King James Version (KJV)

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

The assumption made by some commentaries is that the Church (the Bride of Christ) will not go through the great tribulation; equating the great tribulation with the wrath of God. This is a mistake. The wrath of God is not the same as the great tribulation.  Yes, Christians are not appointed (destined) to wrath. But, Christians will go through the great tribulation. I will support this statement with direct Bible verses as the conclusion of this chapter.

Please note that the great tribulation will be inflicted by Satan.  The book of Job in the Old Testament is evident that Satan was the one who brought calamities on Job. God allowed Satan to do so.

Whereas the wrath of God will be inflicted by God on people who reject God, who do evil and destroy the earth.  Christians will not suffer wrath but will be present in the last three and a half years of the great tribulation, to bear witness to Christ and to stay alive for the rapture. That is why Jesus told us to watch and pray:

Luke 21:36 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Keep awake then and watch at all times [be discreet, attentive, and ready], praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things [taken together] that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

Luke 21:36 English Standard Version (ESV)

But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:36 New Living Translation (NLT)

Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:36 The Message (MSG)

So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”

In the above verse in 4 different translations, Jesus told us to keep awake, watch at all times, be discreet, attentive, ready, and  to pray for strength, ability, and wits to escape the coming horrors. I think you would agree with me that such instructions are superfluous (needless, redundant) IF Christians will not be around to face the great tribulation.

For more than 30 years I believed and taught the doctrine of pre-tribulation. About 10 years ago, as a small part of my Doctor of Ministry degree, I was required to write a paper on the second coming of Jesus Christ. To my surprise I could not find a single verse in the Bible that states directly and clearly that the rapture will take place before the great tribulation. This was after searching through the Bible many times.  I now conclude that the doctrine of pre-tribulation is unbiblical. I challenge you to find one Bible verse (or passage) that states the rapture is before the great tribulation. 

Please do not send me quotations and explanations of Bible scholars or teachers. Please do not send me commentaries, books or DVDs to prove pre-tribulation. All I want is one Bible verse (or passage) from you personally, a direct verse or verses stating that the rapture will occur before the great tribulation (with no explanation or interpretation attached, it should be self explanatory). The verse must be able to stand on its own, without human interpretation or explanation.

All I need is one Bible verse, not an article by a Bible scholar, not books, not DVDs.  For your own sake, find one verse for yourself. You cannot hide behind church leaders, Bible teachers, authors, and DVDS. At the midnight cry when Jesus comes again, you cannot give the excuse that you depended on certain preacher, teacher, author, leader or scholar. They cannot help you. It is your personal responsibility.

For such an important doctrine; surely there must be one direct verse (or passage), clear and simple that does not require human interpretation or allegory. For example, for the doctrine of salvation, there are many direct verses that do not require interpretation or explanation. Ephesians 2:8-9 English Standard Version (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast., is one such passage. There are many other verses that explain the doctrine of salvation without human interpretation: John 3:16, Rom 5:8, Rom 6:23. These verses are self explanatory. 

We should expect the same for the doctrine of the second coming of Jesus Christ. There should be many direct verses that support the doctrine without much explanation or interpretation.

You have to study the Bible for yourself, because your life or even your eternal life depends on the correct doctrine. One and only one doctrine is right. The rapture is either pre-tribulation or post-tribulation.

If you believe in this pre-tribulation doctrine, you will not be prepared when  the ‘mark of the beast’ is enforced during the great tribulation. You cannot buy or sell anything, how are you going to survive until the rapture? You then have two options: to die of hunger or to take the ‘mark’.  Taking the mark will result in horrific consequences:

Revelation 13:16-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead,  so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.


Revelation 14:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Revelation 16:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

If your doctrine is right you will be prepared  when Jesus comes again. I believe the Biblical doctrine is:

Post-tribulation rapture.

The rapture will occur after the great tribulation, when Jesus will return to ‘snatch’ us from this earth before the wrath of God is inflicted on the rest of mankind. Let me give you two direct passages from the Bible

  Matthew 24:29-31 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Coming of the Son of Man

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

This passage is self explanatory. Another passage is:

Mark 13:24-27 King James Version (KJV)

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

This passage is self explanatory.

Supporting verses: (with a little explanation)

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 English Standard Version (ESV)

 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

At the rapture, the living will be changed and the dead will be raised imperishable; and this will occur at the sound of the last trumpet.

When is the last trumpet? The seventh trumpet mentioned in book of Revelation is the last trumpet. This trumpet will be sounded after the great tribulation. You should search the Bible to confirm this.

Revelation 10:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets

Revelation 11:15

 [ The Seventh Trumpet ] Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

 In future chapters I shall give a fuller treatment to the post-tribulation doctrine and how to prepare for the great tribulation.

 Do you love His Appearing?

2 Timothy 4:8 Amplified Bible (AMP)

[As to what remains] henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day–and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return).

May the Holy Spirit guide you to the truth. Pray that you may be counted worthy to be invited to the wedding. Looking forward to be there and to see you there. The wedding may be sooner than we think. Come Lord Jesus!

See you at the wedding,

Dr Philip Cheong
D. Min, B.Sc, Dip. Ed.