From The Cross in the End-Times
The most important immediate question regarding the last days is not whether we have all of the prophetic events clearly identified, sequenced, and completely figured out in advance, but whether or not we are mature Christians in terms of faith and trust in God in order to be spiritually ready for whatever lies ahead. Christians who are surrendered and yielded to the will of God, and are currently engaged in Spirit-filled service, are by definition in a state of watchfulness and will be raptured no matter when it occurs in relation to end-time events (Matthew 24:46).
What Christians must avoid at all costs is a mere head-knowledge of some particular end-times scenario of events, which in our minds satisfies and displaces the requirements regarding our discipleship responsibility to watch and to be ready. Intellectual head-knowledge of end-times prophecies will not fulfill the need for active interaction with Jesus Christ in the present moment, as the required element for watchfulness. Christians cannot afford to become complacent and over-confident because we confuse intellectually subscribing to a particular well thought-out end-times scenario, with actually being in the midst of faithful service to Jesus Christ the King as our living proof of watchfulness (James 1:22).
If our particular current, for-the-moment chosen end-times interpretation turns out in fact to be partially wrong, if we are nonetheless “in Christ” in terms of a genuine journey of faith and service according to our unique talents and abilities, then a transitional adjustment to a more correct view of prophetic events will not be that difficult. If however, we are unwise and coasting along in the false expectation of the master of the house coming back at the first watch of the night (Mark 13:35), we could end up without having purchased through faith enough oil in our lamps to make it through a potentially long duration of the night (Matthew 25:8).
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 1:6, 1:10, and 2:16, is trying to get the Philippians ready for the “day of Christ.” Paul does the same thing with the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:8, 1 Cor. 5:5, 2 Cor. 1:14), the Thessalonians (1 Thes. 4:13-17, 2 Thes. 2:2, 2 Thes. 2:8), Timothy (1 Tim. 6:14, 2 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 4:8), and Titus (Tit. 2:13). If this is important to Paul in the first century, how much more so is it important to the present-day Christian church twenty centuries later? We are certainly closer to the “day of Christ” than the first century church that Paul is addressing in his letters. We should have the same message today as the Apostle Paul, yet with even more urgency.
If everyone knew the exact day and hour of the rapture, sadly many people would cruise along in sin until the last minute, and then suddenly attempt to turn pious. Paul says that the successful Christian life is a foot race that requires steady, lifelong training in order to win (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Jesus knows that the most important thing, which overrides all other considerations, is to complete the work of salvation on the earth down to the very last person who will respond to the gospel message at the close of this age and the beginning of the eternity to come.
Those Christians in past centuries who did not experience the rapture have not been overlooked. Their treasure is in heaven where it does not rust or decay. The promise of their resurrection to eternal life is secure. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says that the dead in Christ shall rise first, and that we who are alive and remain will be caught up to join them in the air. The promises of God are and have been true for every generation of believers.
There is an old saying: “Fate does not call upon us at the moment of our choosing.” That is why we are to watch and always be ready. The one true approach that will work well for the Christian believer no matter how the end-of-world-history events actually unfold is to stay close to Jesus Christ in our daily lives, and to keep our eyes and ears open to the Holy Spirit at all times. Being spiritually prepared for any potential end-times scenario has no down-side.