From The Cross in the End-Times
“…and so that day come upon you unawares. For like a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Lk. 21:34-36)
When it comes to reconciling the end-times worldwide task of evangelism, the necessity of experiencing the cross of Christ in our lives, and the all-important timing of the rapture, each Christian must make up their own mind. The scriptures are not definitive in this regard. This is why the Left Behind books and movies insert fictional conjecture into the storyline to fill-in the missing detail in the biblical end-times prophesies.
Does the rapture absolutely have to occur a few years prior to, or right at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation? Is there something biblically unacceptable about the rapture occurring one, two, three, four, or even five years into the seven-year tribulation period described in Daniel? Is the basis of Christian hope, that is an integral part of the doctrine of imminence, completely nullified by a mid-tribulation rapture? Does this possible prophetic interpretation completely upset everyone’s preferred theology? Do we all have to uniformly fall into lock-step conformity with the currently popular pretribulation rapture viewpoint as presented in books and movies?
Is it a form of minor heresy to entertain a rapture that falls somewhere mid-stream during the tribulation, giving the main Christian church an opportunity to participate in the final end-times harvest of souls, and at the same time experience first-century quality faith and trust in Jesus Christ through service under intense enemy fire? Have Christians, who politely and gracefully dissent from the currently popular pretribulation rapture teaching, somehow fallen into the reduced status of becoming second-rate Christians?
Does a precisely timed rapture, placed amidst the occurring natural disasters and judgment plagues of Revelation to provide maximum evangelical impact in concert with all of God’s last-ditch outreach efforts, make more sense than a pretribulation rapture fixed rigidly in place as a foreknown milestone in the sequence of events? Does a mid-tribulation rapture placed after tens or even hundreds of millions of Christians have commendably sealed their testimony of faith in Jesus Christ with their lives as martyrs, before everyone alive on earth has made their irrevocable decision to receive the mark of the beast, make more sense in terms of Joel 2:28-29, Matthew 24:7-14, and Revelation 7:9-17? Does Revelation 3:10 still maintain its full force and effect, if Christians are in actuality experiencing the early symptoms of the tribulation around the world right now? Can Revelation 3:10, Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:10, Matthew 24:21-22, 1 Peter 1:5-8, and Hebrews eleven, all be reconciled like James 2:14-26 is correctly balanced and reconciled with Romans 3:28?
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” (Phil. 3:12). Paul tells Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 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.
I believe that every Christian raptured early, according to the pretribulation scenario, would be watching the end-times action below on earth and saying to themselves that they would rather have liked more opportunity to labor in the final harvest of lost souls and to further perfect their faith. I believe they would have strongly mixed feelings about the joy of being raptured early into heaven, as opposed to being on the earth participating alongside the “left behind” tribulation saints, in the challenging end-times events taking place before their eyes while gazing down from heaven.
I believe raptured Christians would look down upon earth, seeing neighbors, friends, and family members and say to themselves that they still could have made a contribution to the continued preaching of the gospel and the saving of souls. I believe raptured Christians would be incensed and infuriated with righteous indignation at the deceptions and outright lies being spread by the Antichrist and the false prophets, and would give anything to be on earth again in the most aggressive opposition to these eternally damning lies, even at the cost of trading their being raptured pretribulation to instead be martyred for their Christian service during the tribulation.