From The Cross in the End-Times
I believe that pretribulation raptured Christians would rather be numbered among the “called, and chosen, and faithful” of Revelation 17:14, to be in the frontlines of the battle rather than possibly forever being labeled as rear echelon soldiers raptured merely because they were Spirit-born. I believe that the last-days Christian church would rather be trained for world-class quality spiritual warfare and go into battle to be honorably spent in committed service to Jesus Christ. I believe we would all like to avoid the status of forever being considered untested and untried, amidst the innumerable company of overcoming saints and angels who have gone before us (Heb. 12:22-23). I believe that every Christian would like to experience the thrill of being Holy Spirit empowered in the last days, with self-astonishing Christ-like character in action.
Christians today need to think critically about this notion that the rapture occurring before the start of the tribulation would bring a sense of fulfillment, finality, and closure to their journey of faith. The white-robed multitudes coming out of the “great tribulation” of Revelation 7:14, those who maintained the word of their testimony of Revelation 12:11, and the saints of Revelation 14:12 who through patience keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, all have the sense of being conquerors and overcomers. The faithful men and women identified in these last-days prophetic scriptures have not the slightest hint of incompleteness or partial fulfillment of their heavenly calling, of being pulled out of the game too soon.
I believe there are currently millions of Christians on the earth today who, if given their preference, instead of being immediately raptured today, would rather continue for a few more weeks, months, or even a year or two longer to complete the ministry-in-progress that God has given them. I believe there are tens of millions of Christians on the earth today, who for whatever reason are not engaged in committed Christian service, who would appreciate one last opportunity to be mightily used of God, under the power of the Holy Spirit as prophesied will be poured out in the last days (Joel 2:28-29), for one, two, three, four, or even five years into the tribulation, before they are raptured or martyred for all time into heaven.
I believe that every born-again Christian, if they had all of the various alternatives explained to them in terms of their eternal import, would choose the fullness of the cross experience through the tribulation if it meant the possibility of converting additional family members, friends, and neighbors to salvation quality faith in Jesus Christ, despite whatever the continued personal cost and hardship to themselves.
I do not believe that Christians have to accept uncritically the viewpoint that it is the only healthy, sane, and rational choice to want to be spared the tribulation. We are not obligated, as an article of faith, to accept this teaching. An early exit is not the only and obvious choice here. Being spared trials, struggles, and tribulation is not the normal biblical pattern. So what if Christians live under the threat of death during the tribulation for spreading the gospel message of good news? The apostles lived daily through the persecution and tribulation of the first century, and experienced martyr’s deaths. The New Testament scriptures and the New Testament church were born out of persecution and tribulation (Acts 14:22).
Why would we think it would be any different for the end-times church, successfully engaged in Joel 2:28-29 evangelism, for at least some portion of the tribulation? Luke 21:36, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and 5:9 can just as accurately apply to some point in time part-way through the seven-year tribulation, as they might apply at the beginning of this tribulation period. The same positive attitude we have in hindsight for the evangelical spirit of the first-century Christians is equally commendable on a going-forward-basis for the end-times Christian church as well.
A curious thing about the Left Behind books and movies is that they tell us that the tribulation period can be a difficult but positive experience for Christians. Instead of making an air-tight case for a pretribulation rapture, they unintentionally (from a pretribulation advocacy perspective) shed light on the possibility for genuine spiritual growth through shared adversity in confrontation against the Antichrist. The main characters in these books and movies actually become mature Christian warriors through the experiences of the tribulation, in harmony with the pattern of God beneficially capitalizing on spiritual opposition, revealed in the Bible and as discussed in this book. This is a common theme we find in every positive character in the Bible. God-directed and God-managed adversity separates and delivers us from self-sovereignty.
This same proven methodology could conceivably benefit the larger sized main Christian church on a macro-scale just as easily as it could a smaller sized contingent of “tribulation saints”, simply by shifting the rapture forward a few years into the tribulation period. This would not change the concept of the imminence of the timing of the rapture, or alter the need for watchfulness on the part of Christians. This would not in any way affect the differentiation between the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-53) and the Second Coming of Christ (Mt. 24:27). It simply means that the time gap between these two distinctive events would be shorter than seven years.
Most of the eternal truths we learn in our Christian lives come about through some form of tribulation. Christians, like everyone else, learn the hard-way through first-hand experience. If this is true, then the pretribulation rapture teaching may in fact not be biblically sound. We can’t have it both ways. The spiritual lessons that can be learned through the trying experiences of the tribulation will benefit someone. Will it be the main body of the Christian church, as yet un-raptured off the earth at the beginning of the tribulation, or will it be a post-rapture smaller sized group of “tribulation saints?”
One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is in the trial, in the struggle, in the suffering, in the fiery furnace, and in the victory with us. God the Father did not remove the cup of suffering, the crucifixion as requested by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. But God the Father was in the crucifixion and in the resurrection along with Jesus the Son, for the good outcome of salvation and spiritual re-birth for all of mankind. How can God be in the fiery trial alongside the church during the end-times tribulation, if the main body of the church is not even on the earth?
Without the catastrophic events of the end-times pulling out the rug of false security from underneath the feet of the firmly entrenched contemporary world, combined with the clearly evil worldwide spectacle of the persecution of Christians by the Antichrist, the last remaining stubborn lost sheep at the end of the ages might never re-think their wayward condition, and make their final decision for salvation through Christ.
If the biblical interpretation outlined in this book is accurate, then the Christian church needs to change its mindset quickly. Preparation for spiritual battle (Eph. 6:13), not preparation for the rapture, needs to be the order of the day. Christians need to begin an intimate walk of faith with Jesus Christ as our guide now, so that faith and trust in God has a chance to establish deep roots of experience to withstand the storms ahead.
Faith and trust in God, built upon an experiential foundation that contains a genuine element of risk, is one of the most difficult and challenging accomplishments in all of human life. If the church is not raptured pretribulation, but experiences a portion of the tribulation period working in the final harvest for a few tumultuous years, then the Matthew 7:24-27 verses about building our houses on top of solid rock, with deep foundations, applies as never before.
For the last-days Christian church, I believe the question of spiritual preparedness is one of the great issues of the age that none of us can afford to get wrong. Christians need to come to know their God on a very personal level now.