A False Hope
The more I studied the Scriptures, the more I became convinced that we are living in the last days, and that we will soon begin seeing the fulfillment of the predictions in the prophetic books of the Bible, including the cataclysmic conditions on earth, which will precipitate the rise of the Antichrist.
I also saw a connection between the escapist Rapture and those who espouse a materialistic gospel. I became convinced that we are wasting so much time and energy teaching people how to get rich and how to become self-fulfilled, we have not adequately prepared them for what is to come. Instead of the Church presenting a false hope by preaching the pretribulation Rapture, we should be spending this time informing believers that they will have to go through the Tribulation, or at least some part of it. We should be teaching people to fall in love with Jesus. We should be spending our time, energy, and resources getting spiritually ready for a severe period of persecution and a time of unparalleled upheaval.
To think otherwise, one must totally ignore church history. Brutal persecutions have often been the normal experience for believers. From the earliest years of Christianity, believers were stoned, burned at the stake, dragged through the streets with their feet tied to stampeding animals, and used as human torches. During these persecutions God did not magically remove His people from their tormentors’ grasp, but He gave them the grace necessary to go through their tortures. What makes us think God should cut us a break and allow us to escape before the onslaught of hell comes on the earth? Have we been more faithful than those early saints? Are we more worthy of an easy ride to heaven than they were?
Going back to Matthew 24, I found that throughout Jesus’ listing of the signs of the times, He does not even hint at a pretribulational Rapture. In fact, He laid the emphasis on just the opposite order of events. Jesus described some of the signs that are even now beginning to take place, but the overall tenor of the passage is that even though we will see these things, the end is not yet. Jesus then said:
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. (vv. 21-22 NASB)
Reading the account naturally, without imposing our own ideas or wishful thinking into it, the order of events seems to take place logically.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (vv. 29-31 NASB).
Notice the order of events. These things happen after the Great Tribulation, “and then… (we) will see the Son of Man coming.” And they certainly do not seem to be done in secret. In fact, the tribes of the world, those who do not know the Lord, will mourn at His coming. In the chapters ahead, we will see that they have good reason to mourn.
Will Christians go through the Great Tribulation? I believe we will experience at least some part of it before Jesus Christ returns. When I speak on this subject nowadays, I facetiously tell audiences, “I tried my best to keep us out of the Tribulation. For years I preached that we would escape it. In my studies while in prison, I searched for hours on end, trying to find some way that believers would escape the difficult times about to come on the earth, but I couldn’t do it. I am convinced now that we are going through. Hold on tightly to Jesus. It’s going to be a wild ride!”
(To Be Continued)
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 1
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 2
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 3
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 4
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 5
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 6
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 8
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 9
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 10
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 11
Excerpt from Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse
Published in 1998