I lay awake early one morning pondering the words of a dear friend, she writes:
So many people I know and care for are going through some very trying times… everything… that can be stretched, tested and tried seems to be getting the full force in recent months and years.
As I lie here I can’t help but nod my head in agreement, things seem to be getting tougher and harder across the board but I see this trend most especially amongst God’s Children. Alongside this trend, is the obvious desire to escape from it all, to find a way out from all this hurt, pain and coldness that seems to be becoming second nature within the world. Unfortunately Christians are not exempt from this either and I see this most clearly in the rise of prosperity teaching which teaches people to have it all now, and the consequence of this is greater coldness, self-centredness and materialism which slowly causes the individual to break out of the sheltering wing of the LORD and become firmly rooted in the world. So now we see a world in pain, straining under the weight of living and its people frantically looking for any way to ease the load and to shift the burden, how far do you think mankind will go to make themselves comfortable? What does the Bible say?
I have never been one that has clearly understood eschatology (the study of the end times) but I have always possessed an understanding that things will get increasingly hard and that there will be a time of great tribulation, so I am shocked when I hear Christians brothers and sisters say that they will not be affected by any of this because Jesus (Yeshua) will come and rapture them out. Is this really and truly what the Bible teaches us? Matthew 24 covers the signs of the end in some depth, Yeshua said:
9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
What can we see here? A few things:
- Betrayal, who is doing the betraying? I sincerely believe that betrayal will come within the body of Christ, when things get too hard there will be people who will choose to save their own life and turn against their spiritual family. We have seen this occur previously in history, and we should not be surprised that human nature should repeat itself.
- Mass deception and the rise of false prophets. Who will we be more inclined to listen to someone who tells us that we don’t have to suffer anymore, that we can have all we want now or a distant God who wants us to suffer the worst tribulation in all history (verse 21)?
- Coldness and hatred, the hearts of men will turn cold, there will be no love left to give only a desire to take and survive, but Yeshua says: “but he that endures unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Ahhh, we see that word ‘endurance’, God tells us that living in the world during these times will be something that we will have to endure until the end, there is no ‘get out now’ button.
There has been a proliferation of end times movies which show the Body of Christ being ‘raptured out’ before things get too scary and too traumatic, this reminds me of memories of childhood where when a horror movie would come on the television, I would simultaneously hide behind the sofa and peek over it to see what was going on. I feel that Christians are now watching the world, behind the sofa (safety net of the rapture), scared of what the Bible says the future will hold and using the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture as a safety net. Is this true, will we really not have to go through the tribulation at all? What does the Bible say?
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
Who are God’s elect, God’s chosen ones, if not those who faithfully confess and hold on to the commandments of God and the testimony of Christ? Yes it’s true, God’s people will still be here on earth during the time of the great tribulation.
But does this mean that the rapture will not occur at all? No. if the rapture refers to the catching up of God’s people to meet Him (Yeshua) in the air, this is a biblical truth (verses 31, 40 and 41). But this event occurs after the tribulation, not before and not during it:
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: and 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. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Why am I writing all of this and what do I hope to achieve?
I am writing this in love, because I see the signs spoken of in Matthew 24, not just wars, earthquakes and famines but those more subtle signs which are taking place within the heart of mankind. People are not only getting colder, darker and more desperate, but people are becoming more and more afraid as the world seems to break down all around them. Does God want us to live in fear? No! Yeshua said that when we see all these things that we should look UP because our salvation (He, Yeshua means salvation) draws near. If you read my post on the Last Trump, you will recognise that it focuses on the second coming of the Messiah and reminds us to be soul-ready for His arrival. Am I really there yet, are you?
Chapter 24 ends with stark warnings to His people:
- will we allow the deceiver to break into our house and steal our salvation from us while we are too busy in the world (verse 43)?
- Will we grow tired of waiting and frustrated with the trials of life, that we begin to mistreat one another and become more and more like those in the world (verses 48-49)?
The Lord says that the recompense for the world will be very, very heavy because He will avenge His elect (Luke 18: 8). When the Son of Man returns, shall He find faith left on the earth? How is your faith today, shaky, barely visible? We must be strengthened in our faith in order to be amongst those who do still have faith, no matter how little when our Messiah returns. And I sincerely believe that all this stretching, testing and trying that my friend spoke of is God’s way of saying to us: I love you so much that I’m making you go through this now so that your faith is strong enough for the time to come ahead. No my dear friends, it’s not easy, none of our spiritual ancestors had it easy, why do we expect any less for ourselves, does God rate us any higher than He did His prophets? Please as Yeshua said, let us learn our lesson from the fig tree (verse 32) and be ready, let us not rely on false glimpses of hope but instead let us help to build each other up in faith and truth in readiness for the day that our Messiah returns. Even if we are not alive for His return let us live and die marked in and by faith.
Please share your thoughts, I really am interested in them positive, neutral or negative.