“The Last Judgment” by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel
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What I am about to share may offend some. My goal is not to offend but to share a piece of perspective and encourage saints in persevering for purpose.
As a young believer I was taken with the powerful reality of the Second Coming of Jesus. This intelligence was a precipitator of my conversion. My senior year of High School my friend Mike shared that Jesus was coming back. His words hit me! They resonate ever more loudly today. I thought at the time, “Wow, the same Jesus in the Bible! If he is coming back that means he is real, that the stories about him and the things he said are true.”
I was stimulated for I had just started to read the Bible and was seeing Jesus as an awesome figure. I had mixed emotions. What would it be like to see him? Would I be ready? How could anyone to ready enough for such a heavenly Dignitary? Our name, Landing Strip Enterprises, is a Second Coming theme. The mission is to prepare the way and make a welcome runway for our Great Lord’s return!
There is no greater event to look forward to than the blessed hope, the return of our Lord Jesus. There is no greater event to prepare for than the Day of the Lord, the King fully come with His kingdom, the Wedding of the Lamb, the consummation of the Bride and Bridegroom!
A popular book came out as I was in diapers in Christ called The Late Great Planet Earth. It taught that Jesus was going to come before seven terrible years of global tribulation and extricate his believers from those troubles. At the end of seven years Jesus would appear again to judge the earth and establish his kingdom. Many adopted this teaching and I was among them.
Later I was at a Christian college where the professor shared a different view. He taught that Christians go through tribulation. I was alarmed! I thought he was a great Christian scholar but I started to think of him as a false teacher. I looked at my classmates as he spoke. I thought, “They are all being led astray!”
I took it upon myself to be the defended of truth and show the professor and class that the pre-tribulation rapture was the truth. I dog-eared my bible going back and forth to gain ammunition to confront his “heresy” and set things right with my professor and class. My only problem was that my studies lead me to believe, I had been wrong, by siding with a modern, popular teaching which was not rooted in Scripture.
Without going into a prolonged study let me share the basic points which took me back to the millennia-old view of Christ’s second coming.
THE BIBLE OFFERS NO GET-OUT-OF-TRIBULATION FREE CARDS
Tribulation is part and parcel with true Christian experience. Christ suffered and so do His followers. Jesus did not erase tribulation but brings His presence into it. He said, “In this world you have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world. Paul said all who live Godly in Christ will suffer. You may find many promises for suffering in the Scripture. If you’d like you may clip them out and put it on your refrigerator.
The word “overcome” is often found in Revelation as well as the expression, “the perseverance of the Saints.” Perseverance is a virtue only necessary in difficulty.
So many Christians have died at the hands of totalitarian regimes. Chinese Christians were told by well-meaning Western believers that they would not go through tribulation. Many of them were disappointed as they died or suffered among the millions during the Chinese cultural revolution.
Suppose America suffered horrendously the loss of half of its population because of an asteroid, nuclear war or remarkable calamity. Suppose now you are a survivor in the wreckage. What comfort would it be if someone came up to you and said, “Millions of us are dead and millions more in ruin, but the good news is that Christians will not go thought the great tribulation?”
SOME ARE “TAKEN” AND SOME ARE “LEFT”
We know that good Bible study requires context. Many have taken Jesus’ prophecy “one will be taken and the other left” as if this taught a great taking up of the saints, and a leaving behind of sinners.
I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Luke 17:34
Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” Luke 17:35
But consider the context. The story which sets the pattern a few verses before is that of Noah and the flood.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. Luke 17:26-27
A few verses later we read of the destruction of Sodom
“But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Luke 17:29
Jesus declare this is a pattern which will be duplicated. One group is destroyed and the other group saved, left alive.
“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” Luke 17:30
Concluding from this pattern the “one taken” is the one destroyed, and the “one left” is the one who has been saved from the destruction. This is polar opposite of the pre-tribulation notion.
DATING THE ORIGIN OF THE PRETRIBULATION ESCAPE THEORY
The pre-tribulation rapture theory is a new doctrine on the block. Pinpointing its beginnings is challenging but it first shows up about 1800. If this teaching was not known today it would be very unlikely it would appear because some biblical scholar stumbled upon it in their study.
Robert Cameron gives an historical footnote. “Now, be it remembered, that prior to that date, no hint of any approach to such belief can be found in any Christian literature from Polycarp down…. Surely, a doctrine that finds no exponent or advocate in the whole history and literature of Christendom, for eighteen hundred years after the founding of the Church – a doctrine that was never taught by a Father or Doctor of the Church in the past – that has no standard Commentator or Professor of the Greek language in any Theological School until the middle of the Nineteenth century, to give it approval, and that is without a friend, even to mention its name amongst the orthodox teachers or the heretical sects of Christendom – such a fatherless and motherless doctrine, when it rises to the front, demanding universal acceptance, ought to undergo careful scrutiny before it is admitted and tabulated as part of ‘the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.’” (Robert Cameron, Scriptural Truth About The Lord’s Return, page 72-73).
THE QUESTIONABLE FRUIT OF THE TEACHING
The pre-tribulation rapture theory seems to make our goal to be getting to heaven rather than getting heaven to earth. The early Church orientation was to prepare the way for the Lord so that the King with His Kingdom would overcome the world. Remember, we have been praying 2000 years for the kingdom, the will of God, to come and be done on our planet! Jesus taught that the good leaven of the Kingdom would work its way through the entire lump. Saints were meant to be trailblazers preparing whole nation as disciples to be ready for the Lord’s return.
My general sense of those who have adopted the pre-tribulation theory is they are waiting for their ticket home and out of conflict rather than engaging in fulfilling the great commission.
Certainly, there are wonderful Christians who hold to the pre-tribulation rapture theory. I can’t blame them for wanting an exit from trouble. But I am seriously concerned they are being oriented to exit and escape rather than labor and fight for Christ’s kingdom and so to prepare a royal welcome.
Jesus taught we will have tribulation. This is a given. In Moses’ day there were two trubulations in Egypt. Pharaoh brought tribulation on the children of Israel, and God brought tribulation on Pharaoh and Egypt. I believe there is a similar template for our last days. Although Christians may experience tribulation from the ungodly, men at their worst cannot dish out tribulation like God.
Be of good cheer. You have been given the privilege of being a soldier of fortune to pillage hell to populate heaven. Don’t look for escapes, hiding places and retreat. Light is meant to be put on a stand. Be engaged in God’s warfare on behalf of mankind. And lift up your head for your Redemption is coming!
YOUR THOUGHTS ARE WELCOMED
Steven C Johnson
Landing Strip Enterprises
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