We clearly live in precarious times. It appears as if the world has gone mad as never before, but the truth is the world has always been mad. It has been mad due to wickedness, injustice, despair, sorrow, and death. It has been insane because man often does not want to face the truth about his plight of sin, condemnation, and spiritual death, along with his ineptness to change or control it because he is not God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). It is clear the darkness of this age is leaving man hopeless, and its ways are leaving him depraved, and the illusive, fading promises are leaving him angry, empty, disillusioned, and betrayed.
Since Satan, who is a liar and murderer, is god over the systems of the world, what can we expect from his pawns, cohorts, and subjects, but the great darkness of oppression? The world is in turmoil and dying, but what can we expect from a world that is under a curse of death? The world is in chaos, but what can we expect when there is so much confusion, lawlessness, uncertainty, and fear reigning in every arena. Last month I talked about the sky falling, but this month I want to talk about the reality that in the world we live in there is nowhere to run, hide or escape its deadly tentacles, except to the Rock of Ages (Genesis 3:17-19; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 11:14-15; 2 Timothy 1:7; 3:1-7).
Right now, there is so much bad news. Men’s hearts are beginning to fail, and in due time they will give in to the despair of it all, allowing their hearts to grow ice cold towards life; that is, if they do not pull themselves back and take a good look at what is real, and admit that the only real hope rests outside of this chaotic world. It is clear that the world is winding down to a tumultuous climax. It is also obvious that there are those who are looking up for they know that their redemption is close at hand. However, the real challenge is not hoping that the rapture will happen soon, but putting our hope in the One who is coming back and being prepared to face Him. As Marvin Rosenthal stated in the Zion’s Fire Magazine, “The danger for the Church is not in being left behind, but in being caught off guard.” Keep in mind, it’s all about facing Jesus without utter shame, reproach, and regret (Matthew 7:21-23; 24:12, Luke 21:28, 34-36).
In Jesus’ day people were caught up with the signs. In the minds of the Jewish people, the great oppression of the Roman Empire clearly merited their Messiah’s coming to deliver them from the oppression. They were looking for the coming of the Messiah, but what did they expect to see, encounter or experience? They wanted to be free from the oppression, but for what reason? To do as they pleased, or maybe to not look over their shoulders because of the fickleness and tyranny of the times? What did they want to be free to do? To rule themselves when their history proved that in the end, they were no different than the pagan nations around them as they fell into worldliness, unbelief, idolatry, and pagan practices? What did they expect to change when the Messiah came? Did they think that they would finally have a noble, patriotic cause to get behind to make some sense out of their confusing existence? Oftentimes, earthly deliverance creates more questions and uncertainty for those who are oppressed. The Jews did not realize that the greatest oppression was not of an earthly nature but one of a spiritual nature. After all, all secular, worldly governments digress into utter depravity before being buried in history by the judgments of God.
Sadly today, many are caught up with the signs of the times as they try to read them according to their different theologies. We must keep in mind that theologies can be adjusted to what we choose to believe and fitted into our religious environments. Paul talks about mishandling the truth in unrighteousness in Romans 1:18 and Peter warns of wresting Scriptures to one’s own destruction in 2 Peter 3:16-18. Such theologies serve as intellectual boxes, and for that reason they must never be used to interpret the days we live in. Biblical prophecy alone must interpret the days we live in for it is sure and immovable in its declarations. This is why we must push aside the religious theologies, opinions, and commentaries of man, and simply approach the Bible to read and believe it for what it says. We must take any theological boards out of our eyes in order to step outside of our “small box” so we can hear what the Spirit is saying about the days we are living in as a means to prepare to stand in them (John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
People are trying to survive the times that are upon us instead of standing in them with the assurance of the Blessed Hope before them. There are those who are trying to hold on to their religious teachings instead of holding on to Jesus. There are some who firmly stand for what they believe, but prove to be fragile because they are unable to defend the hope in them. This hope is not based on their interpretation of Scripture but on Jesus Christ in them. I have learned that I can defend my faith in Christ because He is what gives me a sure witness of what is true, but I have never been able to defend any misguided faith based on theology (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
I have to admit that the time I was confused about my faith was when I tried to fit the events of the time into my theology. When I finally cast my theology to the side in frustration because reality was not agreeing with it, I finally was able to see what the Lord was telling me in His Word. We need to realize that theology often serves as a veil, like tinted glass, in which we consider all religious matters. Theology is my belief system that lets others know what I believe, but it is not the sure Rock that I must be standing on. The only sure rock that will not be moved regardless of the times and events, is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we are told everything that can be shaken will be shaken to see if it is founded on the Rock or the shifting sands. Theology can be a shifting sand that is easily enough shaken, moved, and left in utter ruin (Matthew 7:24-27; 16:17-18; 21:42-44; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Hebrews 12:25-29).
This brings us back to the question of what many Christians are expecting when it comes to Jesus’ return. The answer would be consistent: “We are expecting to see our Lord coming back in the clouds for His Church, His Body, the Bride.” Keep in mind, the Jews in Jesus day were expecting Him to come deliver them from their oppressive plight. But the question remains, what type of deliverance are we looking for? The Jewish people expected a physical deliverance from Roman oppression, instead they received a spiritual deliverance. Are we looking for a physical deliverance or a spiritual one or both? Are we looking to be delivered from the grasp of this earth, the claims of sin, the hold of death into the loving arms of Jesus, or to escape something unpleasant? We are to walk as Jesus walked, and He was not spared from rejection, persecution, the cross, and death, and do we expect to be spared from that which would test and expose our faith, devotion, and Christian character (1 John 2:6)?
I can tell you what some Christians are not expecting to see—they are not expecting to see the anti-Christ hit the scene or the real building of the “third” temple. They are not expecting to endure too much testing like those who will experience the “terrible tribulation” coming upon the world. Many are more caught up with the idea of what they are not going to see than what they need to be looking for. Should we be concerned about such emphasis?
We know that the pre-trib rapture is not part of the teachings of our early fathers. This was brought out in the fourth century in the teachings of Irenaeus, Cyprian, Tertillian, and Lactantius. In fact, when you read some of their writings, they believed that the rapture would happen after the anti-Christ’s appearance, and that the real challenge for those of the Church was the same as that of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13; that is, they need to be ready with the oil to endure the time of great testing. (You can read their writings about this subject in the May-June 2023 Zion’s Fire Magazine.)
The pre-tribulation rapture theory is either a new revelation or it is false, but if it is a revelation from God, those who believe it must be able to address other Scriptural concerns with more than a couple of sets of standby Scriptures. In light of salvation, my consolation about such beliefs is that it matters little what “non-essential theology” people hold to, as long as they believe on the Jesus of the Bible, received His gift of life, have been born again, and are in love with His appearing because they love Him and are preparing to see Him face to face and to live with Him for eternity.
This brings us back to where one’s faith rests (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:5-9). What if these people see some of the things they don’t expect to see? Even at this question, some would throw their hands up at me and rebuke me for not believing their take on Scripture. Their unwillingness to be questioned or even discuss the matter implies they might have a very fragile reality that is being shaken even now by what is happening around us because it does not fit into their theological box. In such cases, it is not a matter of being right or wrong, it comes down to how precarious man’s interpretation of prophecy can be regardless of how accepted and popular it may be.
This brings us back to the possibility that if their interpretations of how the end days do not play out the way they expect it to, what will happen to their faith, because it is obvious it’s not really directed towards God but towards their personal interpretation of prophecy. Is that why one of Jesus’ main concerns, when He comes, is will He find true faith that stands on who God is, withstands with His Word in spite of how it may not fit into their conclusions, while continuing to stand in light of His promises regardless of if they see it fulfilled in their lifetime (Luke 18:8; Ephesians 6:14-17; Hebrews 6:12; 11:13)? I for one don’t know how end day prophecy will play out; rather, I stand on the ground that it will all be fulfilled, but not according to any personal interpretations.
Like others, I’ve tried to imagine what would happen in these end days, but it was a futile attempt to mentally prepare myself for what I might see. I have discovered that my imagination proves foolish and ridiculous compared to God’s perfect way of bringing forth His will (Isaiah 55:8-9; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 4:17-19). When I have become stuck in my interpretation of how something must be because I HAVE THE SCRIPTURES TO PROVE IT, I either missed what God was doing or it almost passed me by without me seeing how smooth of an operator He is when it comes to bringing forth His plan and will. I am reminded that God works out the details according to His incredible wisdom, and not according to my thinking.
My vain imagination thinks about the worst that can happen, but that doesn’t mean I’m right in my conclusions or that I’m spiritually prepared to stand. This is one of my concerns. The instructions surrounding Jesus’ coming is not directed at rightly interpreting prophecy, (for prophecy must interpret the times), but being ready for Him. There is almost a ho-hum attitude with Christians when it comes to Jesus’ coming. They know He is coming, but meanwhile some are going to live it up to that last minute, while others, like some in 2 Thessalonians 3:5-15 are being disorderly in their walk while failing to work for Him. In the end, they make no real investment to maintain their Christian life and witness until He comes. My question is how can those who admit He is coming and even occasionally look up, ignore the warnings against having a complacent attitude about it in Matthew 24:42-51; Mark 13:32-37, and Luke 21:31-36. Like in Jesus’ day the danger for us as believers in relationship to the coming of our Redeemer in the clouds will not be in light of us not expecting the Promised One; rather, it will come down to whether we are prepared to meet Him face to face when He does come.
Signs call for awareness and preparation, not interpretation that turns into unprofitable arguments. Our imagination can’t fathom how God will carry a matter out, and prophecy will not be adjusted to fit our conclusions. Right theology may help us to stand for what we believe, but it will not stand when it comes to our faith being tested. The only way we can stand in these times is by being founded on Christ, the only sure Rock. The only way we will withstand the darkness is by investing in our life in Christ by faith, and in obedience to His Word as a means of preparing us to face Him when we stand before Him. And finally, the only way we will continue to stand is by having enough oil of the Holy Spirit that we will endure whatever dark night of testing comes our way until His promises are fulfilled. If we fail to prepare ourselves for the darkness we encounter, we may become part of those who are in danger of being caught off guard when He does come.
The question we must be able to answer is, not am I right about my theology concerning the end days; rather, am I ready to face my precious Lord, without sorrow, reproach and regret, when He does come for His Bride?