As I survey the contemporary Christian scene, I get the impression that many Christians think that the extremely popular Left Behind books and movies (I have read and enjoyed all twelve volumes, and watched all three movies), have adequately addressed the end-times debate, and that there is no more to be said on the matter. But if an alternate reading of the pattern of God crafting and channeling spiritual opposition for His purposes throughout the Bible is correct, then this alternate view of the overcoming actions of God recorded in the Bible is in contrast to the notion of a sparing of the church from the intense end-times challenges through a pretribulation rapture. If the uniform and consistent biblical record of God’s participation in the affairs of mankind since the fall in the Garden of Eden is based in part upon God’s opportunistic mastery over every manifestation of spiritual opposition in the natural realm of situations and circumstances, then removing the Christian church from the earth pretribulation is out of character for God.
Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period would be the penultimate demonstration of God’s ability to take the evil designs of the Antichrist, take the last great worldwide evangelical outreach, and take the unconditionally committed service of the faithful Christian church in the face of enormous spiritual and political opposition, and weave all of this into a glorious tapestry that would reveal the loving character and righteous judgment of God. The end-times tribulation would provide the opportunity for the last Christian church on earth to become seasoned and battle-tested spiritual warriors.
One of the central tenets of the pretribulation rapture teaching is that the church is to be judiciously spared the catastrophic events that will occur on the earth during the tribulation. It is taken for granted that within this concept of the church being spared the tribulation, the natural desire and preference of the church likewise is to be with Jesus Christ in heaven. This is referred to in Titus 2:13 as the “blessed hope.” Paul writes in Philippians 1:21-24…”For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor, yet what I shall choose I know not. For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Paul similarly writes in 2 Corinthians 5:8…”We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Yet I do not think that anyone would suggest that Paul is saying here that he would prefer to cut short his ministry and opt for an early retirement plan before he had completed his calling.
While making his defense before King Agrippa in Caesarea, Paul says: “Having therefore, obtained help from God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great…” (Acts 26:22). The overriding desire of Paul’s heart was to “apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). Paul tells Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). The natural inclination to be spared the end-times tribulation is countered by the equally powerful natural desire to test our individual spirits under fire, to see what we are truly made of under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and to complete our individual callings before moving on into eternity. Purpose is key to fulfilling our Christian callings.