The most important immediate question regarding the last days is not whether we have all of the prophetic events clearly identified, sequenced, and completely figured out in advance, but whether or not we are mature Christians in terms of faith and trust in God in order to be spiritually ready for whatever lies ahead.
Christians who are surrendered and yielded to the will of God, and are currently engaged in Spirit-filled service, are by definition in a state of watchfulness and will be raptured no matter when it occurs in relation to end-time events (Mt. 24:46).
What Christians must avoid at all costs is a mere head-knowledge of some particular end-times scenario of events, which in our minds satisfies and displaces the requirements regarding our discipleship responsibility to watch and to be ready.
Intellectual head-knowledge of end-times prophecies will not fulfill the need for active interaction with Jesus Christ in the present moment, as the required element for watchfulness. Christians cannot afford to become complacent and over-confident because we confuse intellectually subscribing to a particular, well thought-out end-times scenario, with actually being in the midst of faithful service to Jesus Christ the King as our living proof of watchfulness (Jas. 1:22).
If our particular current, for-the-moment, chosen end-times interpretation turns out in fact to be partially wrong, if we are nonetheless “in Christ” in terms of a genuine journey of faith and service according to our unique talents and abilities, then a transitional adjustment to a more correct view of prophetic events will not be that difficult.
If however, we are unwise and coasting along in the false expectation of the master of the house coming back at the first watch of the night (Mk. 13:35), we could end-up without having purchased through faith enough oil in our lamps to make it through a potentially long duration of the night (Mt. 25:8).
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 1:6, 1:10, and 2:16, is trying to get the Philippians ready for the “day of Christ.” Paul does the same thing with the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:8, 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14), the Thessalonians (1 Thes. 4:13-17; 2 Thes. 2:2, 2:8), Timothy (1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:18, 4:8), and Titus (Tit. 2:13).
If this is important to Paul in the first-century, how much more so is it important to the present-day Christian church twenty centuries later? We are certainly closer to the “day of Christ” than the first-century church that Paul is addressing in his letters.
We should have the same message today as the Apostle Paul, yet with even more urgency.
If everyone knew the exact day and hour of the rapture, sadly many people would cruise along in sin until the last minute, and then suddenly attempt to turn pious. Paul says that the successful Christian life is a foot race that requires steady, lifelong training in order to win (1 Cor. 9:24).
Jesus knows that the most important thing, which overrides all other considerations, is to complete the work of salvation on the earth down to the very last person who will respond to the gospel message at the close of this age and the beginning of the eternity to come.
Those Christians in past centuries who did not experience the rapture have not been overlooked. Their treasure is in heaven where it does not rust or decay. The promise of their resurrection to eternal life is secure.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says that the dead in Christ shall risefirst, and that we who are alive and remain will be caught up to join them in the air. The promises of God are and have been true for every generation of believers.
There is an old saying: “Fate does not call upon us at the moment of our choosing.”
That is why we are to watch and always be ready. The one true approach that will work well for the Christian believer no matter how the end-of-world events actually unfold is to stay close to Jesus Christ in our daily lives, and to keep our eyes and ears open to the Holy Spirit at all times.
Being spiritually prepared for any potential end-times scenario has no down-side.
In the study of the history and development of eschatology, emphasis is placed upon the importance of the recovery of last-days biblical prophetic truths during the time-period following the Protestant Reformation.
This has occurred alongside the parallel discovery of other key doctrines such as salvation by grace, justification through faith, and becoming spiritually reborn (Jn. 3:3), which were partially lost during the dark and middle-ages of history.
One of the key biblical doctrines that still has not made a full recovery in practical application to this day, in my opinion, is the concept of a divinely planned and guided challenge of adversity contained within a God-composed journey of faith, which beneficially separates the believer from debilitating self-sovereignty.
The Christian set free from self-in-control in a walk-of-faith through the cross and the resurrection is then able to step into a biblical quality of life to match on some level the experiences of an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Ruth, Esther and Mordecai, Daniel, Peter, and Paul.
In the current emphasis in developed countries for church growth and the effort to find the right tone to reach-out and successfully evangelize the unchurched, one key element of our discipleship of picking up our cross and following Jesus, is all too often homogenized out of the message for the sake of not offending worldly-minded potential converts.
Sadly, in too many churches today the idea that every Christian can have an individualized adventure of faith composed and guided personally by Jesus Christ, starting at the foot of the cross, is not even clearly and powerfully taught as applying to our everyday lives here and now, much less factored into the calculus of the upcoming tumultuous end-times prophetic scenarios.
In my opinion, the Christian church must experience some portion of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation.
As I interpret the narrative stories of faith in the Bible, this viewpoint does not adversely affect our blessed hope, or undermine the doctrine of imminence at any time of an immediate rapture of the church, or call into question the purity of God’s love for us (Ps. 34:19).
Confronting and overcoming dark challenges is an integral and inseparable part of the process of a journey of faith life-script that God lovingly composes for our eternal good, as patterned in the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.
Jesus Christ actually tells Peter at the beginning of Peter’s ministry that he will someday in the future be martyred through crucifixionrather than be raptured (Jn. 21:18-19), yet this seemingly negative prophetic information does not discourage Peter, diminish the power of his ministry, or destroy his blessed hope in the slightest (1 Pet. 1:3).
Paul tells Timothy (2 Tim. 4:6) he suspects that he (Paul) will be martyred soon, not raptured. Yet Paul presses forward in this knowledge with unwavering hope and determination to honorably complete his mission and calling (2 Tim. 4:17).
Because Paul enjoys the status of being a Roman citizen, historical tradition tells us that Paul is finally executed by beheading (parallels Revelation 20:4) in Rome under Nero’s decree sometime around A.D. 62-65…instead of being crucified like Peter, a Jew and a non-citizen of Rome.
If two of the greatest Christians and chosen authors of New Testament letters to the churches, Peter and Paul, did not allow a foreknowledge of their future deaths as martyrs to adversely affect the commitment to their calling and their fidelity to Jesus Christ, how is it that many Christians today believe that experiencing some portion of the tribulation will destroy their blessed hope of Titus 2:13?
In John 15:11, Jesus says: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Moments earlier, Jesus told the disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
These words Jesus spoke the night before His crucifixion the following day.
In John 11:7, upon hearing of the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus says: “Let us go into Judaea again.” The disciples respond by saying: “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou there again?”
In verse 16, one of the disciples Thomas (the much maligned “doubting” Thomas who would not accept the resurrection until he saw Jesus with his own eyes) then says with characteristically clear-sighted appraisal of the situation: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Yet the disciples do not perish with Jesus during His trial and crucifixion, but after Pentecost go on to preach courageously of the bodily resurrection of Christ in the very heart of danger in Jerusalem.
The narrowest of gates opens for the disciples to form the early Christian church amidst the most lethally adverse circumstances, a church which has flourished and survived down to our present day to provide salvation and deliverance from sin to Spirit-born Christians worldwide.
Jesus Christ fills all-in-all so that we can follow Him safely into the deepest valley and up to the highest mountaintop, in our singular and unique callings.
We must factor this honest and straightforward reality into our interpretation of biblical end-of-time prophetic scripture if we are to come reasonably close to what God intends us to understand ahead of time as God prepares us for the upcoming end-times.
Peter and Paul exemplify the true, biblical, divinely authorized foreglimpse of the overcoming attitude of faith and trust in the Rock that is Christ, in response to whatever challenges lie ahead in the future for Christians.
This is the hope-built foundation of our faith, no matter what is occurring in the outer world.
For the Spirit-born Christian, our eternal life with Jesus Christ in heaven is forever, without end. It is already secure.
The cross of Christ experience, therefore, in our short-lived lives now is priceless beyond reckoning (Rom. 8:18).
This is the part of the discussion relating to eschatology that has not yet been fully recovered. It is certainly an opinion and a viewpoint worthy of examination, discussion, and argument from scripture.