Scripture clearly tells us that pretty terrifying times are ahead for the world, a time of horror and tribulation “such as the world has never seen” “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” According to Jesus, these times will try believers’ hearts and faith more than any other in all the history of civilization.
We must prepare for these times the same way Paul did. He openly shared his secret of enduring suffering, torments, and persecution with joy — “I die daily!” Paul was a living martyr. He had been to the cross and had been “crucified with Christ.” He had laid his life on the altar and counted all his strengths, talents, and benefits from this life as garbage so that he might “gain“ Christ.
Read Paul’s letters! He shares experiences that would make most of modern-day absurdly cosseted; sofa-coiffured, fainthearted believers shrink away from the faith. The crucified life is never taught any more, only the “Victory of the Believer.” But there is no victory without a battle, and there is no resurrection without a cross. As one teacher has admonished: “Today, many people with ‘charismatic‘ experiences have been led into the ‘upper room,’ without ever going to the cross!” They are fooling themselves by believing that Salvation comes through the Grave, and not by Grace!
Too many believers are sitting around fat and satisfied, waiting for their “Great Escape,” what we call the “Rapture”! But as Ravenhill explained, “Today’s church wants to be raptured from responsibility.” I know that Paul mentioned in his letter to the church in Thessalonica:
“Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord.” -I Thessalonians 4:17
Hey! We don’t know when this will happen! Some will tell you that it will be this month, others will say we have to wait until mid-trib, others post-tribulation. Some say it will never happen, that it was a made-up doctrine created by John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century theologian.
I realize that many books and movies have made millions, but as a result, many believers (mostly in America) are hoping this event that is often called “the blessed hope,” or the “rapture” by others – believe that it will deliver them from the sufferings that the Bible clearly states will torment the whole earth.
In fact, there are many who are more excited about this “rapture” than they are about Jesus Himself! Do these same people believe that they are more worthy to escape tribulation than Paul, or James, who both were beheaded? Or Peter who was crucified upside down (because he didn’t believe he was worthy to be crucified as his Lord had been)? Or Bartholomew who was actually skinned alive in Rome?
What about the millions of saints through the ages who have suffered unspeakable fates as their reward on earth for their faithfulness, or those being murdered by Islamic terrorists? Why weren’t they raptured? And what makes us congratulate ourselves here in the West, to think that we deserve to go scot-free from suffering when “men of whom the world was not worthy did not accept their release, in order that they might obtain to a better resurrection“? (see Hebrews 11:35-38). Hello? I don’t hear an answer yet.
One of the saddest stories is how the believers in China fared when the Communists took over their country in 1949. The Evangelical churches had been teaching that the Church would definitely be raptured before any “great tribulation” or “suffering” would happen to any of the faithful. It had become such a central doctrine that they abandoned any concern (or preparation) for any persecution! Instead, they sang praises for their absolute safety from harm and persecution during every meeting. Then,when the Communist government took over and viciously attacked the Church, including confiscating their property, beating the pastors and members, imprisoned them, and even took the children away from their parents, the unprepared Church was caught so off-guard that millions fell away and denied Christ, because they believed they had been abandoned by a God who did not keep His promise. Ah, but that’s just it! Their God had promised tribulation and persecution!
Many today ignore the millions of believers who are still being murdered by the communists, but now, more viciously and brutally by Islamist extremists. The are even surprised that the rights of Christians are being violated in the U.S. by the very government that is supposed to protect their rights! Surprise! And folks, it’s going to get worse.
Don’t you remember those Scriptures? Take a look at John 16:33; Matthew 16:25; II Timothy 3:12! You will see things like: “In the world you will have tribulation . . . whoever desires to save his life will lose it . . . all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” But those promises were ignored by the Chinese Church, the same way they are being ignored by the TV Preachers of Good News and Good Times. It is so sad to think that so many have become mesmerized into believing that no physical harm or suffering can befall them because they are Christians. But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul . . .” (Matthew 10:28). I will even add, “Don’t be surprised!”
I’m not saying there won’t be a rapture. And yes, I am one of those who believes that it will be before the time of Tribulation. And yes, I believe that our God could deliver all true believers from the Great Tribulation, but since He hasn’t always gotten even faithful Christians off the hook from suffering (in the Bible or in Church history), there is no guarantee that He will protect the many lazy, apathetic believers of today from something that might not only wake them up, but would certainly divide the true sheep from the “religious” goats.
Fortunately, our Salvation does not depend on our correct understanding of the rapture, so when it comes to believing in either a pre-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture (or no rapture at all), my motto has always been the often repeated: “Pray for “pre” but prepare for post.” That way we will be ready for truly anything – which is exactly the way our God wants us to be!
Just remember Paul’s great advice:
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are still in the Christian faith. Test yourselves! Don’t you recognize that you are people in whom Yeshua Christ lives? Could it be that you’re failing the test?” (II Corinthians 13:5)
Three Who Loved Not Their Lives
There was a converted Hindu Christian martyr whose skin was slashed and filled with salt and chili powder. He said to his tormentors, “Formerly Satan wounded me with his fiery darts. The blood of Jesus healed those wounds. The suffering caused by your wounds is not much.” Enraged by these words, they started to skin him alive. ” I thank you for this,” he said, “tear off the old garment. I shall soon put on Christ’s garment of righteousness.” He was finally burned praying for his persecutors. (A Book Of Protestant Saints by Ernest Gordon)
Then there was Alan Cameron, one of the “convenanters” of the great Scottish persecutions, who was shown the head and the hands of another covenanter, his own son Richard. They asked him the cruel question, “Do you know them?” He kissed them saying, “I know them… I know them. They are my son’s, my own dear son’s. It is the Lord. Good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me nor mine, but has made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.” (Fair Sunshine by Jock Purvis)
Thomas Haukes, after refusing to have his son baptized into the Roman Church, was ordered to a fiery death by the Bishop of London. During his agony, he stretched forth his burning hands and clapped them together three times, signifying to his friends that God was giving him grace in the fire. June 10, 1555. (Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs by John Foxe)
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