A Partial Revelation 2

The resurrected Jesus could have walked down the main streets of Jerusalem and right into the temple, removing any doubt as to His true identity and nature.  But that would have upset the delicate balance between the virtue of faith and the freedom to remain in unbelief.  It would be giving away too much information.  The finely balanced spiritual equation of repentance, faith, and righteousness within the context of this broken world…does not always include a full revelation of all pertinent information upfront (Ex. 4:1-17; 1 Cor. 13:12).

Absolutely no one ahead of time understood the upcoming resurrection of Jesus which was to occur three days after His crucifixion.

Luke 22:49 records the disciples asking Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane whether they should “smite with the sword” to defend Him.

Peter weeps bitterly after failing to stand by Jesus at His trial.

The disciples scatter for their lives after the arrest of Jesus, not realizing their temporary situation was secure until the disposition of Jesus of Nazareth was finally decided.

The religious leaders think that by killing Jesus they will be rid of Him and His movement.

Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus wrap the dead body of Jesus in linen strips according to the Jewish custom for permanent internment.

The women come to the tomb early Sunday morning to anoint the body of Jesus with spices for permanent internment.

The disciples initially reject the first reports of the resurrection of Jesus.

The two men walking with the resurrected Jesus toward the town of Emmaus are sad, because they still do not have any idea that Jesus through the cross and the resurrection has purchased for them their eternal salvation that very day.

All of this, even though Jesus told people ahead of time that He would rise from the dead (Mk. 9:31-32; Mt. 27:63).

People at the time missed the upcoming resurrection of Jesus because they were stuck in horizontally conventional thinking.

Consider the Apostle Paul as he travels toward Jerusalem for the last time.

Paul is surrounded by Spirit-filled men, even the well-known Jerusalem prophet Agabus, all beseeching Paul not to proceed forward into the personal threat he faces at Jerusalem.

After the tumult in Jerusalem, as Paul sits in the prison at Caesarea, these same Spirit-filled Christian companions could have said to Paul in hindsight “we told you so.”

Yet only God could see that He was changing the ministry of Paul from a church planting evangelist to a writer of the final four “prison” epistles, within a quiet time for reflection and under the physical protection afforded a prisoner of the Roman Empire.

Everyone missed this ahead of time as God worked-out His higher purposes in the midst of incredibly tight circumstances…that characterize the narrow gate for a person following Jesus Christ in faith…and without care for their own personal safety (Acts 21:13).

The contention made by pretribulation proponents today that because the Bible is rich in prophetic content we should therefore be readily capable of accurately interpreting end-times prophecy ahead of time…is in my opinion an over-reach of horizontally conventional thinking.

The notion that we can piece together all of end-times prophesies in a highly detailed sequential chain of events, fundamental to the pretribulation program, should at the very least be approached with some amount of healthy questioning based upon the brief arguments made above.

The best current projection of upcoming events can only be partially accurate…because all of the end-times information is not in yet.

Human intellect combined with an assessment of current events can only take us so far at this point in time.

As frustrating as this may be to human intellectual pride and hubris, we still need to exercise faith regarding our full understanding of upcoming biblical end-times prophecies.

We will need Holy Spirit revelation according to the Joel 2:28-29 verses to illuminate more fully the whole end-times picture.  We will need Spirit-filled Christians having the gift of prophecy to contribute additional details according to God’s will and timing, with a “thus sayeth the Lord” quality of authority to back up their pronouncements, over and above mere human intellectual, scholarly opinion.

A Partial Revelation 1

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions;  And, also, upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.”                                                                                                       (Joel 2:28-29)

A biblically accurate starting premise in approaching the study of end-of-time prophetic future events is to recognize that God has purposely kept some portion of the information incomplete and obscure.

A thoughtful Bible student can approach this admittedly difficult subject of end-times prophecy with the beginning assumption that no person has it all figured out to the last detail, because no one can figure it all out, by God’s purposeful intention.

Even as Jesus is explaining in clear language His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection to the disciples, as fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies, Jesus knows they are not completely getting it.

Yet there is no record in the gospels of Jesus going back over this critical subject repeatedly four or five times, until the disciples understand perfectly.  Jesus knows it will all make sense later in hindsight.

An argument can be made that the crucifixion itself is a product of the Pharisees and scribes tragically misreading the messianic prophecies as a direct result of faulty living…adversely fulfilling the very prophecies they thought they completely understood upfront.

If the messianic prophecies were crystal clear no one would have made the tragic mistake of crucifying Jesus of Nazareth.

God indeed has everything in the last-days planned out to the smallest detail.  But by not revealing all of it for the present time, God keeps us engaged and in a state of watchfulness.  Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is always the underlying theme behind all of the works of God, including the subject of end-times prophecy in the Bible.

The amount and specificity of information that God reveals in scripture is always a function of what He is attempting to accomplish in dividing truth from error for us through real-life experiences in the present-moment.  Some of the end-times biblical prophecies will only become clear after all of the events are over.

A second component of this idea of purposely incomplete prophetic revelation is the good wisdom of God in not revealing all of the fine details of His plans to the opposition upfront.

Telling Lucifer and the other fallen angels all of God’s strategic plans ahead of time, within the end-of-time prophetic scriptures contained in the Bible…would be counterproductive in the extreme.

This interpretation is consistent with the approach that God has taken with all Bible prophecy.  Some element of hindsight is usually involved in putting all of the prophetic pieces of the puzzle together after-the-fact.

Once the fulfillment of a particular biblical prophecy has been locked into historical place by the occurrence of the actual events themselves in time, then the opportunity for spiritual opposition to fully anticipate the prophecy ahead of time…and possibly adversely alter the God-intended outcome…has safely passed.

For example, the Psalms 22 prophecies regarding the crucifixion were just vague and obscure enough so that the religious rulers in Jerusalem did not connect them in advance to Jesus of Nazareth, yet precise and specific enough to be clear in hindsight.

Psalms 22:16 reads: “…they pierced my hands and my feet.”

If God had given away more detailed information in this prophecy, such as the shape of a wooden cross, the use of five to seven-inch long metal spikes, and the piercing of the hands and feet as a slow and tortuous method of execution causing weakness through blood loss leading eventually to asphyxiation, then everyone would have been forewarned centuries beforehand of the divine intention hidden within this prophecy, through the well-known and widespread practice of Roman crucifixion.

The question can be asked, what would be the motivation for God to give away too much overly specific information in this prophecy?  God would then have had to come up with another means for sacrificial atonement other than the cross of Christ, for mankind’s sins.

Jesus Christ shed His blood while hanging on a wooden cross…in sin atonement as the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God after the ancient pattern of the blood atonement given by God to the Levitical priesthood.

Too much information given away in Psalm 22:16 would have tipped-off the religious and civil authorities ahead of time, and spoiled Roman crucifixion as God’s totally unanticipated and unexpected method for Christ’s substitutional atonement.

God reveals just the right amount of information in Psalms 22:16 to accomplish His purposes.  One of the true marvels of Psalm twenty-two is that David heard God’s voice accurately, and got the wording of each of these critical prophecies just right.

Micah 5:2 reads: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Hosea 11:1 reads: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”

Isaiah 11:1 reads: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”

The Apostle Matthew included in his gospel that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1), returned to Israel from Egypt as a small child (Mt. 2:15), and grew up in Nazareth (Mt. 2:23).  Matthew obtained this information from only three probable first-hand sources…Mary the mother of Jesus, or Jesus Himself after His resurrection, or James the half-brother of Jesus.

The chief priests and Pharisees prided themselves in knowing the prophetic scriptures pertaining to the Messiah, as witnessed by their indignant response to Nicodemus who had suggested to his colleagues that they give Jesus a fair-minded hearing:

“Art thou also of Galilee?  Search, and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (Jn. 7:52).

Yet, all these priests and Pharisees had to do to resolve this question of the birthplace of Jesus was to simply ask Mary the mother of Jesus, or to ask Jesus Himself.  They did not ask this direct question because they had already made up their minds that Jesus was an unsuitable candidate according to their preconceived idea of what the promised Messiah would be like.

Again, these prophecies regarding the origin of Jesus Christ, authenticating His claim to be the Messiah, were just vague and obscure enough so that the religious rulers did not connect them to Jesus of Nazareth, yet precise and specific enough to be crystal clear in hindsight…as given to us by Matthew.

God did not foretell through a singular, composite verse in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and come out of Egypt and be called a Nazarene (as Matthew interpreted the prophet Isaiah’s 11:1 verse).

God did not combine these three verses together neatly in one location in the sacred text for the convenience and illumination of the readers.  Thus combined they would have unmistakably pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as the only possible Messiah.  God kept these verses separated in the Old Testament, so as to be purposely obscure to the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first- century, yet crystal clear in hindsight when put together after-the-fact by Matthew.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation 4

Finally, if Jesus was the leader of a small band of warriors like David, when He stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, the townspeople would never have reacted with such outwardly violent opposition to His words (Lk. 4:28-30).

The townspeople would have respected His worldly power and feared His military might, keeping their opinions to themselves.  Jesus is led by the people of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff to be thrown over to His death because Jesus has no worldly influence, honor, or respect to intimate anyone.

The townspeople in the synagogue in Nazareth ask: “…is not this the carpenter, the son of Joseph?”  The growing reputation of Jesus as a prophet came from areas outside of His hometown (Lk. 4:14).

Jesus had no reputation as a “somebody” in a worldly sense to be feared and respected.  Jesus was an outcast and lowly among his native town.  He did not fit-in in a worldly sense.  Otherwise the people of Nazareth would never have thought they were free to be offended with Jesus to the point of throwing Him off a nearby cliff.

Jesus is the perfect, sinless, Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for our transgressions within a worldly-free package having no pedigree, wealth, social standing, or outward appeal.

Jesus did not resort to appealing to worldly power.  Jesus lived a spotless life amidst no worldly influence, material success, or cultural acclaim.  Yet Jesus purchased through the cross and the resurrection the power to give eternal life.  Jesus has the power to effectuate the second birth of John 3:3.  Eternal life through the Son of God comes through zero worldly stature or authority.

This means we can live godly lives “in Christ” pleasing to the Father, likewise with or without any worldly acclaim, influence, or stature.

But more importantly for the discussion in this chapter, the complete lack of appeal to worldly influence in the life and ministry of Jesus tells us that Jesus as King and Ruler is the diametric opposite of hypocrisy.

Jesus does not have to resort to worldly acclaim, influence, and appeal to impress the world.  Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice despite being devoid of outward worldly appeal.

By contrast, the son of perdition of 2 Thessalonian 2:3…to be shortly revealed by the upcoming events and circumstances of the great tribulation…is the negative attack-ad character-assassin specialist…is the vilest hypocrite.  He promises peace and safety according to a modified version of the promise of worldly power he made to Jesus of Nazareth in the temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13), without the lightest intention or capacity to offer anything other than destruction and ruin for all who choose to follow him.

In my opinion, the Christian church has to participate in the exposure of this vast contrast between the genuine King and Ruler of the realm, and the counterfeit impostor who would like to overthrow God and assume His position.

The only Person in all of existence smart enough to outmaneuver and trap Lucifer in his deceptive lies and hypocrisy…is God Almighty.

But for our benefit, for a discovery of the knowledge of good and evil to reach its full extent, the Christian church will be engaged in the middle of the action as previewed in every narrative story of faith recorded in the Bible.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation 3

Offenses Must Come (Matthew 18:7)                                 

The question can reasonably be asked, why did God not openly expose Lucifer in the Garden of Eden?  Why did God not thoroughly and irreparably expose Lucifer during the ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century?  Why does God allow Lucifer to continue this hiding-game of deception even to this day?

Why will Lucifer be able to continue as a formidable deceiver and a liar, apparently part-way into the great tribulation, before he is finally exposed and revealed according to this 2 Thessalonians 2:3 verse?

Why does God allow what amounts to the equivalent of an open forum process, where unbelief, rebellion, and deception have a viable platform, to continue unabated to express their destructive worldviews under the cover of high-minded, good-natured, and well-meaning debate?

Why does God allow people the total freedom to continue to make eternally decisive, self-destructive wrong choices?

Lucifer’s classically deceptive statement in the Garden of Eden reads: “Ye shall not surely die.  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

Mankind, represented through Adam and Eve, sadly swallowed this massively deceptive temptation “hook, line, and sinker,” without requiring the slightest backup evidence or character references from Lucifer to qualify him to be able to make such cleverly disguised, yet boldly critical statements about God.

One answer to the question why God has not thoroughly exposed Lucifer is contained within the nature of Lucifer’s rebellion, and the subsequent fall of man.

Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of God’s management of the affairs of the universe.  Lucifer wanted God’s seat of power…pure and simple.  Lucifer’s rebellion was a raw power-grab.

Lucifer offered himself as a credible leader in place of God based upon appearances rather than substance.

Like Absalom’s rebellion in the Old Testament against his father David’s reign as king…no attempt at high-minded debate regarding competence, credentials, or agenda was made.

Like Absalom, Lucifer depended upon good looks, appealing charm, and persuasive smooth-talk, leaving out any specifics as to how things could be done better under his rule.  Absalom rode upon the coattails of his father’s existing beneficial reign as Israel’s King, with Absalom’s supporters uncritically assuming that Absalom possessed the same high quality of character and leadership abilities as David, yet in a more popular and outwardly charming package.

Lucifer, like Absalom, offered himself as an improvement in place of the existing ruler God, rather than offering an improvement in the ideological agenda to replace the existing policies and leadership regime.

Lucifer’s rebellion was an attempted coup, a change of personnel, not a reformation of ideas.  Lucifer has no ideas of his own, no positive agenda, other than to steal and corrupt God’s existing program.

Lucifer by nature is a destroyer, not a builder, with the fatal character flaw of insatiable ambition.

God lovingly created mankind with a need for fellowship with God, and Lucifer cleverly hides within religion, inserting himself into the very seat and object of worship where God should rightfully reside.

This is the really dangerous and eternally threatening part of Lucifer’s rebellion…contained within the subsequent fall of mankind.

A brilliantly executed negative attack-ad campaign by Lucifer against God, combined with deceptive good looks and charm, do not make a qualified god who can effectively and capably rule the universe.

But this approach almost enabled Absalom to topple his father David from the throne of Israel.  This approach did actually bring about the successful temptation in the Garden of Eden.  We see the negative consequences of sin as objective fact every day in our newspapers and on the nightly news.

This cleverly and cunningly devised challenge to God’s rulership and authority, even though it contained absolutely no substance and had no positive agenda of its own, nonetheless required an equally well thought-out and executed counter-response from God at the highest level.

The entire course of biblically recorded human redemptive history…down through the preceding roughly seven thousand years…might be partially characterized as God allowing the consequences of unqualified ambitious rebellion to demonstrate its ill effects through real-life situations and circumstances.

The platform of information that makes up God’s qualifications and positive agenda, which is deceptively by-passed in a beauty contest based solely upon outward appearances, and which is ignored altogether in a cleverly conducted attack-ad campaign, God has nonetheless managed to submit into the human experience through the four dimensions of space and time.

The credentials and qualifications of Lucifer to be able to criticize God, which should have been required upfront and carefully examined in the Garden of Eden, but which were gullibly accepted by mankind without question, are now being exposed and scrutinized in agonizing detail through the long course of human history.

Lucifer can say whatever he wants using words alone.

But the difference between the disaster that occurs when man sits atop the throne of his life as a spiritual rebel against God, contrasted with the glory of redeeming character transformation that rescues people from personal destruction through repentance and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ as Lord, is acted out every day through the medium of this current life on earth.

The real truth regarding the credentials and character of God are being discovered every day in the progress being made in Christian apologetics, in the field of intelligent design, in Christian service to the world, and in individual journeys of faith following Jesus Christ.

God could alternately choose to write across the sky this afternoon with large flaming letters for everyone on earth to read, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the outward expression of the Triune nature of God, and to worship only Him.  But then the freedom to choose between belief and unbelief would also end this afternoon.  And a journey of faith voluntarily following Jesus Christ through this broken world, having real consequences and eternally valuable spiritual lessons, would also come to an end.

Mankind’s corporate enlistment by Lucifer into his rebellion against God does not excuse our individual rebellion.  Each of us has individually sinned against God in our own rebellious ways.

When we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, He forgives each of us individually.  God places His hand upon our shoulder, looks into our eyes, and says: “I forgive you.”

But even though God completely and thoroughly forgives us, we are still in the same vulnerable, uninformed position regarding the nuances of deception…as were Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Even though the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, we still have the issues of Lucifer’s successful temptation in the Garden of Eden to resolve.  For the remainder of our Christian lives, we still have to wrestle against this self-centered fallen nature we inhabit (Rom. 7:23-25).

This is why God created the vehicle called a journey of faith, and why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

This is why God inspired the writing of the Bible, recording the adventures of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments as patterns and examples of His correct interaction with His followers.

This is why the current environment of our broken world is the proving ground for truth and error to be a demonstration in action.

This is why God allows belief and unbelief to operate side-by-side in opposing tension in our world, not decisively exposing the ultimate pros and cons of truth versus error, for the time being.

Christians have to experience first-hand for ourselves the truth or falsity of this enormously destructive attack-ad by Lucifer, first proposed in the idyllic Garden of Eden so long ago, that our happiness somehow lies in being our own gods atop the thrones of our lives, apart from God.

For Christians to become spiritually wise, mature, and savvy regarding the knowledge of good and evil, these first-hand experiential lessons must be out-there and in-play within the context of real-life situations and circumstances.

One of the important questions explored in this book, is whether or not this all-important journey of faith, which is a God-led tour into the discovery of the fundamental issues that are the basis for eternal happiness and peace, comes to an abrupt halt for Christians at the start of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period through the rapture of the church?

If the seven-year tribulation is a culmination of the theme of the story that God has been writing over the last roughly seven thousand years…through the Bible…through the nation of Israel…through the church age…and through the journeys of faith that Christians are currently experiencing…then the natural conclusion would lead a person to think that the church would be a major participant, rather than an absentee raptured bystander, in this final chapter of redemptive history.

The tribulation is the crisis-filled environment of events and circumstances capable of bringing the substandard qualifications of the deceiving, negative attack-ad specialist Lucifer out into the open.  God has perfectly timed this absolute and final exposure of truth versus error, of the demonstration of pure love versus self-centered ambition, of the characters and motivations of everyone, to be revealed for all to see at the close of human redemptive history.  The universe and our natural world were created for just such an explosive final ending.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation 2

The Father of Lies (Jn. 8:44)                                  

The rebellion of Lucifer is like the modern-day politician whose strategy is to bring down his election opponent through negative attack-ads, rather than through the presentation of a straightforward policy agenda that can be honestly and openly debated on its merits.

Lucifer actually has nothing constructive to offer.  Lucifer has no positive agenda of his own.  Lucifer cannot compete against God head-to-head in the arena of righteousness, holiness, and competence.  If Lucifer is to get the power and position that he covets, to be ruler of the universe in place of God, he will have to resort to devious and underhanded methods.  Taking-on God straight-up is a losing proposition for Lucifer.

The temptation in the Garden of Eden is therefore a cleverly crafted deception and a lie about the character of God, not a commendable, honorable approach having substance that can be debated on common ground…with the program of God.

What is so brilliantly deceptive, but so damnably evil, about the temptation in the Garden of Eden, is that the slander of God’s character by Lucifer carries with it the false presumption that Lucifer is thereby on an equal footing with God, without first having to establish Lucifer’s bona fide credentials for criticizing God.

Like the political candidate who skillfully uses negative attack-ads against his opponent, the mere presentation of a criticism, according to the higher moral fabric of the universe, automatically implies that the person making the criticism somehow has the qualifications and right standing to do so.

An elevated, good-natured, respectful to one’s opponent, fair-minded debate between opposing viewpoints belongs within the high moral plane of God’s world.  Political candidates who critically scrutinize their opponent’s viewpoints at this elevated level are rightly considered to be engaging in commendable, constructive, and honorable pursuits of truth that will achieve good government and thereby benefit society.

The negative, spurious, and unfounded attack-ad character assassination of one’s political opponent as a successful campaign strategy, is a product of the sinful fallen nature of man, and is not a part of God’s world at all.

But an unscrupulous person can move up or down at will between these two levels of conduct, claiming the legitimacy of the higher-minded zone while actually engaging in the worst form of untruthful character assassination.

This is the subtlety of deception that Lucifer introduced into the world through his rebellion against God.

By questioning God’s underlying motives regarding Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit, Lucifer is presuming to place himself in the undeserved and unjustified high position of criticizing God.  By questioning God’s character through this deceptive temptation, Lucifer is unilaterally elevating himself (through incredible pride, arrogance, and what the British would call “cheek”) up to an equal footing with God without even having to present his qualifications beforehand.

By deceptively playing the part of being a constructive critic within the higher zone of good-natured and fair-minded debate, Lucifer is granting himself the freedom to pass judgment upon the actions of God, which he is in no way qualified to do.

The willingness to ruthlessly attack a political opponent’s personal character with untrue and slanderous lies, while running for office, does not in any way establish a candidate’s own qualifications for becoming a good and effective public servant.

This is what is so damnably dishonest, dishonorable, and deceptive about Lucifer’s attitude and tactics.

We know from reading the New Testament that Lucifer hid behind the outwardly acceptable religious appearance of the first-century Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers, who eventually managed to instigate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

We know from history that Lucifer hid behind the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, threatening dissenters and potential reformers with excommunication and the terrors of the Inquisition, until Martin Luther successfully began the Protestant Reformation.

We know that Lucifer is currently hiding behind all forms of liberalism, religious relativism, and worldly compromise within Christendom today.  These modern forms of spiritual deception are just as difficult to uproot and overturn as these earlier challenges.

One Purpose for the Great Tribulation 1

“When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.”                                                                                                        (Jn. 8:44)

Church fathers, biblical scholars, and Christian philosophers have been debating and arguing about end-times prophecies for nearly two thousand years, and still have not managed to reach a consensus.

People with high academic credentials have spent lifetimes studying the end-times prophecies in the original languages, and cannot agree with other scholars and theologians on the interpretation of end-times prophetic passages found in the five historical books, the psalms, the prophets, the gospels, the letters to the churches, and in the book of Revelation.

I have good Christian friends who are all over the map on the subject of the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation.

Many Christians have the plausible belief that the church will come under the supernatural protection of God all the way to the end of the tribulation, through a physical or spiritual hiding place, without a rapture even occurring.

One longtime Christian friend humorously calls himself a “pan-tribulationist”, meaning that it will all “pan-out” in good time through unfolding events, like panning for fine gold in a river bed.

I believe the rapture is separate from the second coming.

Paul speaks of what we call the rapture as a mystery, yet everyone in the early church clearly knew about the ascension of Jesus and the promise that He would return in like manner someday in the future.  The second coming was not a mystery to first-century Christians.  A rapture occurring sometime prior to the second coming, as revealed to Paul, would be a mystery.

In sharing his teachings openly with the other apostles (Gal. 2:2), Paul would have certainly included this revelation regarding the mystery of a lifting-up of the Christian church, those believers currently living and those already dead and buried, off the earth and into heaven.

Yet we do not see the slightest hint of any opposition to this teaching that Paul seems to have included within his outreach to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor (Acts 20:20), and that he would have communicated during any one of several occasions to Peter, James, John, and other leaders in the early church in Jerusalem.

It is also important to note here that the pretribulation rapture interpretation is not a paradigm…in the sense of a universally accepted working hypothesis in science…that must be replaced by a better hypothesis in order to be overturned.

No matter how popular the pretribulation rapture teaching may currently be, it is only one of four or five competing end-times prophetic interpretations to choose from.  People inclined to place the rapture part-way into the great tribulation, with the Christian church having a major role in the final decisive debate, do not have to construct an alternate complete scenario to support a rapture occurring sometime in the middle of the tribulation period.

The pretribulation rapture scenario is not the orthodox position that must be replaced by a fully formed and explicitly detailed alternative.

In my opinion, the best alternative is to admit we do not have the complete end-times picture as yet.

My working hypothesis…for me…is the recognition of the great difficulty everyone had figuring out the nature and mission of the messiah prior to the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth.

Yet in hindsight everything worked out perfectly according to the designs of God without any dependence upon prior human understanding.

Scripture says that end-times Christians will not walk in the night of ignorance (1 Thes. 5:1-11), but this does not require that we have a complete scenario worked out from beginning to end to successfully replace the fully constructed pretribulation rapture framework.

The pretribulation rapture teaching is not a paradigm…but simply one interpretation among several others.

This book is not an attempt to rigorously examine the end-times biblical prophecies scripture by scripture, in an exhaustive, comprehensive manner.

There are numerous well-written books and commentaries that cover the standard viewpoints in the field of biblical eschatology, spanning across recent centuries back to the early church fathers.

But I believe that God does have something unique, timely, and applicable to say to us regarding our discipleship as we approach the beginning of the end-times.

The goal of this book is to examine some important issues in the current end-times debate from a different perspective, from the viewpoint of our journey of faith with God.  This hopefully will enable Christians to stretch their thinking about the challenges ahead and lead to a greater personal commitment in following Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 tells us that before the “day of the Lord” comes, the “man of sin”, the “son of perdition” will be revealed.  Because the precise circumstances that would expose the heretofore unrevealed nature of the son of perdition are not given in this scriptural passage, we cannot say exactly how this will occur in the future.  But we can make an educated guess that can be insightful to Christians today.

One of the many places where Lucifer, a spiritual being, deceptively hides his true character is within religion (2 Cor. 11:14).  Lucifer infiltrates Judaism in the Old Testament, and Christianity in the church age, in skillfully camouflaged attire, because by nature he is a destroyer rather than a builder (Jn. 10:10).

Because outward appearances can be so deceiving (Mt. 23:27-28; Lk. 11:44), Lucifer can outwardly project the impression that he is a builder with a positive agenda, which provides a suitable cover for his real intentions of knocking down and destroying the plans of God.

Lucifer hides within religion, in addition to our secular world, because it is one of the best places to conceal his true identity, while at the same time subtly attacking and undermining the work of God.

After all, who would expect a religious leader in Jerusalem in the first century…or a high official inside “the church” in any century of the church age…to be anything other than a godly person?  The cover of religion removes any suspicion.

The Perfect Timing of God 3

When is the Best Time to Shake-Up the World?

This observation, if accurate, sheds light on one of the key biblical end-of-time events.

A rapture of the Christian church that occurs at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period, upsets the delicate balance of belief and unbelief, right at the critical time-period when we enter upon the last seven years of human redemptive history.

If the rapture is such an obvious disappearance of hundreds of millions of Christians only…as an isolated event in the twinkling of an eye…then does this highly public sign of the truth-claims of Christianity skew the delicate balance of people’s freedom to remain in skeptical unbelief…regarding the existence of God at the most inopportune time?

This clear-cut demonstration of the truth of the Christian message through a pretribulation rapture would be occurring at the very outset of the time-period when the great arguments against God are being made by the little horn of Daniel…and during the last great harvest of lost souls as prophesied in Matthew 24:14.

In this era of accurate investigative journalism and worldwide media coverage, have we missed the obvious and unavoidable conclusion that the rapture will be clearly identified as the rapture, thus greatly affecting from that point forward…in the short time remaining…people’s calculations regarding their final decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ as their Savior and Messiah?

Has the term “rapture” and its meaning, made familiar through books and movies, already entered the popular vocabulary and psyche to the point that the “horse has already left the barn” in terms of people’s future recognition and identification of a pretribulation rapture taking hundreds of millions of Christians off the earth?

Pretribulation rapture proponents would capably argue that the rapture is precisely the explosive event needed to set in motion the final push for the worldwide evangelism of Matthew 24:14.

But let us stand back for a moment and take a detached, mezzanine view of this idea.

Is removing all of the Christians off the earth the best way to commence evangelizing the earth?  Is a planet empty of all Christians the ideal environment for starting from scratch…the worldwide effort to evangelize the last remaining group of lost sheep predestined for salvation?

Does a simple reading of Joel 2:28-29 contemplate a world full of mature Christians willing and able to serve, or a world that is altogether empty and devoid of the main Christian church?

In order to support a biblical last-days prophecy interpretation having a rapture that occurs prior to the tribulation, and to harmonize this with other end-times prophetic scripture, we have to invent the entirely new theological framework of dispensationalism, which did not exist prior to the beginning of the 19th century.

Is the time placement of the rapture…pretribulation…too radical a choice if this requires an artificially constructed, major transitional breakpoint at the disappearance of the Gentile church age raptured into heaven, dovetailed with a newly created body of Jewish Messianic Christians converted to evangelize the remainder of the world until the end of the tribulation period?

This major bump…this discontinuity breakpoint…this passing of the relay-race baton to a new evangelical workforce as a result of the removal of the Christian church pretribulation…forms the basis of dispensationalism.

Or by contrast, is the best way to evangelize the planet to pour-out God’s Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-29), including the New Testament blend of Gentile and Jewish Messianic Christians…that make up the current body-of-Christ on earth today?

The exchange that the Antichrist, alluded to in Daniel 7:20-27, 8:17, and 8:23-25, has with the saints of the Most High (Dan. 7:22-25)…implies that for a period of time at the beginning of his reign, when the Antichrist “destroys wonderfully” to the point of the wearing down of the saints of the Most High, that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are still functioning.  The usurping, false, second-advent counterfeit messiah the Antichrist temporarily wins the verbal battle through a deceptive message of falsely secured worldly peace and prosperity.

If this is a period of intense battle between freely articulated conflicting worldviews, in which the Antichrist prevails through the deceptive appeal of worldly salvation from our current political, social, and economic problems, then the enormously important finely-tuned balance between the freedom to believe or not to believe in God…must still be fully in play.

The overly simplistic teaching that Jesus will rapture His beloved Bride the Church into heaven before a period of tribulation and judgment begins upon the earth, as if that is the rationally normal default expectation…entirely misses some critically important realities.

The last days tribulation period is more complicated than Jesus simply sparing the church from the narrow-gate (Mt. 7:13-14) unpleasantness of tribulation.

If God raptures hundreds of millions of Christians, and all of the children under the age of accountability off of the earth pretribulation, then the balance of evangelical outreach based upon truth-preaching is essentially over.

If the rapture occurs…pretribulation…then nearly everyone on the planet will be aware at the beginning of the tribulation period that there is a strong probability that the biblical prophecies surrounding the rapture are accurate and true.

Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior will then automatically shift over for many people into the category of being an inarguable fact, like the existence of the noonday sun, or like two plus two equals four.

A pretribulation rapture would have the same effect upon the delicate balance between belief and unbelief that a resurrected Jesus walking through the streets of Jerusalem in broad daylight would have had from the first-century onward.

The virtue of discovering God through faith and trust, because we have examined the issues involved, and examined the value of abandoning self-sovereignty in pursuit of a journey of faith following God, is partially or entirely lost once the existence of God is reduced to the world of involuntary, observable fact accessible to everyone.

The rapture recognized as The Rapture, and nothing else, is a major milestone event having enormous implications in both the spiritual and natural realms, and has the potential to throw belief and unbelief out of balance… depending upon when it occurs.

When we look back through the Bible, we can see the enormous care that God took in keeping the ability of people to believe or not to believe, in balance.

The fact that God the Father orchestrated the ministry, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God in the midst of a busy and populated first-century Roman occupied Israel…in such a way as to leave in place the free-will ability of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, rulers, and a large segment of the populace to remain after-the-fact in unbelief…has to be one of the great spiritual engineering marvels of history.

The timing of the rapture is therefore critical.  The nature and intent of its impact changes dramatically, depending on when it occurs in relation to the end-times tribulation events.  Place it too early, and it upsets the balance between belief and unbelief.  Place it too late, after multitudes have already received the mark of the beast and are beyond pardon…and the evangelical value it affords as a powerful sign to the world of the truth of the Christian gospel message…is lost forever.

If the rapture is placed well beyond the midpoint of the tribulation, after tens of millions of Christians have been martyred for refusing the mark of the beast, as alluded to in Revelation 7:14, 12:11, and 15:2, then the rapture is not intended as a sign at all, but rather as a well-timed escape mechanism to remove the church from the earth sometime around Revelation 16:15.

The rapture is like the main ingredient in the cooking of some precisely prepared gourmet meal.  The timing of its addition to the process must be perfectly coordinated to achieve the desired outcome.

The long-awaited rapture cannot be about something as relatively trivial as the removal of the Christian church simply to be out of harm’s way before the massively unsettling but defining tribulation period.

Since when is the God of the Bible overly challenged by the threat of invading Midianites, or invading Philistines, or Pharaohs, or Egyptian chariot armies, or the parting of the Red Sea, or kings like Nebuchadnezzar, or a fiery furnace, or a den full of lions, or 450 prophets of Baal, or any of the other tribulations facing the people of God in the Bible?

The timing of the rapture, placed just prior to the start of the tribulation, has no clear basis in scripture one way or the other.

The pretribulation rapture teaching is one plausible construction of events according to a particular school of thought.

The doctrine of imminence absolutely requires that the rapture occur before the tribulation, only if we define Christian hope as something outside of Hebrews chapter eleven, outside of John 21:18-19, outside of Acts 9:16, and apart from the Holy Spirit inspired character-stretch toward the excellence of a “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11:35.

If it is true that the unique nature of the rapture will clearly reveal itself as the rapture, and nothing else, then this important observation needs to be factored into our end-times calculus.

If it does not make sound biblical logic, or even worldly-astute common sense (based on the accuracy of modern investigative journalism) that the rapture can occur at the beginning of the tribulation, because it would prematurely give away too much world-shattering information at the wrong time, then it becomes the nearly unavoidable conclusion that the un-raptured main Christian church will enter into at least some portion of the seven-year tribulation period.

A Delicate Balance for Unbelief 2

Raptured People Will All Be Christians

This brief introduction about the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…serves as a tie-in to one of the key issues in our understanding of biblical last-days prophecies…which is the timing of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51-53).

Identifying the real underlying cause behind a pretribulation rapture would be one of the easiest and most clear-cut pieces of investigative journalism ever.

It would not take long for investigators and journalists to discover that those people missing through the rapture…hundreds of millions around the world…were all practicing Christians.  Investigators would quickly put two-and-two together regarding what these missing people all had in common, and thus eliminate any competing bizarre and speculative explanations…concluding instead that this event must have been the heretofore popularized biblical rapture.

God does not make mistakes.  He is not inaccurate.

Every person raptured will be a Spirit-born Christian, without exception.

This will be the largest, homogenous group of people to ever participate in any single event of history.

If every person amongst hundreds of millions of people disappearing in the twinkling of an eye around the world, were all and only exclusively Christians, everyone on the planet would quickly know this.

If within a moment of time there were absolutely no believing Christians to be found anywhere on the entire planet, this would become immediately apparent in many parts of the world.  It would be common knowledge within days, possibly hours, and in some locations even minutes, that this event was the New Testament rapture and nothing else.

No amount of secular media spin, no matter how liberal the initial bias, would be able to explain away or refute the common knowledge among the populace that those family members and friends they lost in the great disappearance…were all uniformly and exclusively practicing Christians.

If three, four, or five hundred million Christians were instantly raptured from the earth, it would be extremely difficult to spin this event as anything other than the biblical rapture.  What other possible explanation would come close on the plausibility or believability meter?

It is the uniform, universal nature of the people missing that is controlling.

UFO abduction would not make sense.  Why would unidentified flying objects abduct hundreds of millions of Christians, as opposed to the God of the Bible abducting Christians in a rapture event?

It would make no difference if journalists began their investigation from a completely secular, non-biblical perspective.   The initial focus of the investigations would be about the people missing, not about Bible prophecy.  The investigations would all lead to the same consistent conclusion.  Any subsequent questions regarding the meaning of Bible prophecy relating to the disappearances would only become a secondary factor after it was clearly established that the people missing were all Christians.

People around the world would quickly know this was the rapture, as an indisputable conclusion of fact, because they would have personally known the people who disappeared.

A pretribulation rapture by definition also occurs pre-Antichrist, so there cannot be a concerted worldwide governmental organization in place to spin the rapture into something other than the rapture.  This cannot be the “deception” referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

On a full transatlantic 747 airliner crossing, moments after a hundred passengers had vanished off the plane instantly, a shocked man in row 25, standing up and looking around the lighted cabin interior at the remaining passengers, would remark out loud to himself more than to anyone in particular, that his missing wife was a Christian and that this was the biblical rapture.

This left-behind husband would know without a doubt the reason why his Christian wife had suddenly disappeared.

A woman in row 28, also standing up to visually search amongst the nearby passengers, would overhear this comment, and confirm with resigned sadness that her missing husband was also a Christian, and that this was the rapture her husband had told her about while reading the Left Behind books a few years ago.

A young couple in the middle seats between rows 25 and 28, overhearing this exchange, would frantically say that their small children were also missing.

Within ten to fifteen minutes everyone on this jetliner, because of the confined space, would have heard and processed the idea that Christians and small children had all disappeared in the biblical rapture.

Similarly, because of the large proportional number of hundreds of millions of Christians that would be raptured pretribulation, within the confined and finite space of our planet, the initial speculation that the cause of this vanishing was the biblical rapture would be instantly set-in-motion as a natural result of the close personal relationship between the people raptured and the very people left behind.

Again, the uniformly Christian composition of the people taken would preclude any bizarre, paranormal explanations.

This is one reasonable and straightforward construction of people’s reactions that would shortly follow the rapture during a mid-flight 747 jetliner crossing over the Atlantic Ocean.  This same scenario would repeat itself quickly across the globe as people “compared notes” and realized who had disappeared.  The idea of the rapture as the plausible explanation for the disappearances would become concrete fact worldwide, hours or days before any alternate fantastic explanation could be fabricated by anyone.

With this many people left behind and personally affected, the world would not be looking to a detached, impersonal, and spiritually ill-equipped secular media to provide a believably authoritative explanation for the clearly supernatural disappearances.  They would already know the cause behind the disappearances, based upon their personal relationships with the Christians who had been instantly raptured.

If a pure, easily identifiable, homogenous group of 500 million Spirit-born Christians all disappeared in the twinkling of an eye…it would make no difference in this explanatory interpretation if an equally large-sized group of unsaved nominal churchgoers were unexplainably left behind.

The question would not degenerate into whether only “good” Christians were taken and mediocre or less dedicated “Christians” were left behind.

The clarity of the identification and nature of the large mass of those people taken in the disappearance would not be clouded or diluted in any way by the nature of those nominal churchgoers left behind.  Their condition would be a separate and unrelated issue way…down the list of immediate considerations.

In today’s pretribulation rapture discussion in Christendom…we are missing the obvious.

Any numerical quantity of people noticeably disappearing with or without their clothes in a worldwide manner, above the unrealistically understated number of 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000, for example, would garner immediate attention and be attributed by the general populace as a divine act of God…with no other plausible causation.

No imaginable space-alien invasion or natural force could discriminately take 100% intact, whole people totally into thin air, vanishing completely.

Few people would think this surgically accurate and precise removal of whole people…without leaving behind body parts or any other visible trace… could possibly be anything other than some inexplicably divine act of God.

Couple this with the singular nature of those taken, the expanded number of this group to be in the hundreds of millions…and the only plausible explanation of this totally implausible event would be the rapture and nothing else.

This does not mean that the world would believe the rapture explanation as incontrovertible proof to motivate them to surrender and yield their lives in faith to Jesus Christ.

It simply means that everyone would have heard this rapture explanation as the leading, most plausibly acceptable explanation for the disappearance of hundreds of millions of Christians.

Left-behind people after a pretribulation rapture are by definition skeptics and unbelievers.  Just because they hear and process the information that the rapture is the cause of the disappearances, does not mean necessarily that many of them would reconsider and embrace change in their lives on account of this information.

What makes this a critical issue in our centuries-long, ongoing recovery of truth regarding biblical end-times prophecies, is that God the Father did not previously choose to have the resurrected Jesus walk through the main streets of Jerusalem in route to entering into the temple.

God did not choose a wide-scale public demonstration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as the means to generate commendable, virtuous, and salvation quality faith.  The contemporary skeptics observing a resurrected Jesus walking into the first-century temple in Jerusalem…would indeed acknowledge the supernatural nature of this occurrence.

But this would probably not generate repentance and separation from self-sovereignty leading to salvation faith for them…any more than seeing Jesus miraculously cleanse lepers, restore sight to the blind, or raise Lazarus from the dead…did during the time leading up to the cross and the resurrection.

The all-important point here is that God Himself did not choose to upset the delicate balance for belief and unbelief…although He easily could have done so at this most opportune time by introducing the element of incontrovertible proof into the equation of His new covenant outreach of love to mankind in the first-century.

Romans 10:17 sums this up beautifully and simply: “So, then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

 

 

 

A Delicate Balance for Unbelief 1

“And through his policy also he shall cause deceit to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many; and he also shall stand up against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without hand.”                                                                                            (Dan. 8:25)

If God wanted to provide incontrovertible proof to the world that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and the promised Messiah to Israel, all Jesus had to do after He was raised from the dead was to walk down the middle of Main Street and right into the temple in Jerusalem…on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week following His resurrection.

This is so obvious that we miss it.

This is like the theological controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the first-century…regarding the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus answers this question posed to Him as a theological challenge by the Sadducees (Mk. 12:18-27), by pointing out in the scriptures that at the burning bush God identified Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Jesus then says that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, thus resolving this first-century controversy as to whether there is life after death.

Even though the Old Testament is not overly definitive on the subject of the afterlife, the answer to this specific question was right there all the time in plain sight…in one of the most well-known encounters in the Old Testament, in this exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush.

If the risen Jesus can suddenly appear in a room where the disciples are gathered (Lk. 24:36), and earlier the same day walk alongside two disciples heading for the nearby village of Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-32), it would not have been any more difficult for Jesus to walk into the temple in Jerusalem.

Then everyone, including the Pharisees and scribes, would believe in Him.

Why did Jesus only appear to Mary Magdalene at the tomb (Jn. 20:11-18)…to Peter (Lk. 24:34)…to James (1 Cor. 15:7)…to the eleven apostles (Jn. 20:19-23)…to five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:6)…and to Paul (1 Cor. 15:8)?

Why did God set-up the gospel-message preaching of the early church based upon the eyewitness testimony of the disciples, instead of the more obvious and beyond-a-doubt visual proof of Jesus walking openly through the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection?

Why did God moderate and fine-tune the impact of the Son of God’s ministry on earth in such a way as to leave intact the ability of large numbers of people to remain in skeptical unbelief for centuries to come?

Why is this fine-tuning of the balance between belief and unbelief in the spiritual realm…at a level comparable to the precision of the fine-tuning of the strength of gravity or the cosmological constant in our natural world?

Why does the Christian witness today begin with our testimony that Jesus Christ lives…that He redeemed us into a new and living way…that the transformation in our lives demonstrates that God is real…and that our knowledge that we now possess eternal life sets us free from a past life in bondage to sin?

Why do we come home from a prayer meeting at the age of 18, like I did, after becoming a new Christian, into a house and a family that is antagonistic toward the Christian faith (Mt. 10:34-36)?

Why do we start-out having to earnestly resolve to live the Christian life in all of its purity so that those around us will see His Light within us and also believe?

Why is it so important for God to maintain this delicate balance between the ability to freely believe in God…and conversely the freedom to remain in skeptical unbelief…which makes evangelism and the conversion of others so difficult?

The answers to these questions are profoundly deep, yet profoundly simple.

The only thing that really matters, in the final analysis, in our verbally spoken and life-in-action witness about Jesus Christ, is the quality of our transformation into becoming new improved people in Christ.

All of the persuasive speech in existence will sound empty and flat if our faith in Jesus Christ produces no tangibly noticeable improvement in our outlook, our attitudes, our countenance, and in our actions.

The acid-test in the witness of any Christian’s testimony to the world is the positive change that has occurred in our lives (Jas. 2:18).

Once people see this positive change, it is then up to them to evaluate whether or not they will consider and be open to the possibility in their own lives of repenting of their sins before God, abandoning self-in-control through the cross, and following Jesus into a journey of faith creating genuine meaning and purpose for their existence.

Jesus Christ…as seen in the lives and in the verbal testimony of Christians…is what attracts most people to the Christian faith (Mt. 5:16).

This is why a universally accepted, factual acknowledgement of the existence of God…through something like the fictionalized, hypothetical example of the risen Jesus walking openly down the main streets of Jerusalem, is unacceptable.

There must be a broad separation between the two extremes of belief and unbelief, having a wide gray-area center of indecisive fence-sitting, for the intentional and committed discipleship of picking up our cross to follow Jesus… to have real value.

God could easily confirm His existence supernaturally anytime to the satisfaction of the most skeptical people on earth today.  God could remove unbelief in an instant.

But then our decision to follow Jesus Christ in response to His love would not be based upon a voluntary free-will choice.

We do not voluntarily choose to believe in the existence of the noonday sun.  We do not choose to believe in two plus two equals four.  These are obvious, involuntarily acknowledged facts that require no faith or choice whatsoever.

A resurrected Jesus walking into the temple in Jerusalem, or walking openly down its main city streets, would not result in a free-will choice to believe, trust, and follow Him in response to His loving invitation for an intimate friendship.

It would simply change the nature of faith in Jesus Christ into an incontrovertible fact, conferring no more virtue upon its adherents than upon the observation that the noonday sun exists.

One reason that God has maintained the delicate balance between belief and unbelief throughout the long course of human redemptive history…is that it adds meaning to the free-will choice of human beings to believe in God to the point of yielding their lives to His will and leading.

The virtue of following God through thick-and-thin, like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul, only has meaning in a world where people can freely push God away and live their lives in total self-sovereignty apart from God.

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief in the spiritual realm is just as vitally important, indeed maybe more so in the eternal scheme of things, than the delicate balance of the fine-tuning of the current laws of physics in the natural universe.

Alter even slightly the force of gravity in the cosmos, and the delicate balance of factors needed to support complex life collapses.

Alter even slightly this delicate spiritual balance of belief and unbelief, and the working out of the eternal issues of right and wrong in our relationship to God… lose all sense of free-will, purpose, and meaning.

The Perfect Timing of God 4

Unity Forged Through Common Challenge

The present-day Christian church has lost its way.  We are lost in factions, and divisions, and denominations, and disagreements.

In this regard we are “yet carnal” (1 Cor. 3:3).  The early church warned us against this.  Somewhere along the past twenty centuries we lost the unity of brotherly love we are supposed to exemplify, exhibit, and enjoy as patterned for us in the Trinity.

As a group, we are currently as lost as the Israelites were as slaves in Egypt, or as lost as Joseph was as a prisoner in Pharaoh’s dungeon, or as lost as David was as King Saul chased him all over the countryside, or as momentarily lost as any of the other positive characters in the Bible waiting to find their true selves within the life-scripts composed by God for them.

This is not the Christian church that we are supposed to be.

We need outside supernatural help once again from God…to step-up into the challenge of a God-composed tribulation script of events designed to forge us into becoming the body of believers we were intended to be.

Just like the Israelites needed the parting of the Red Sea to jump-start them along their way to fulfilling their God-intended true destiny as the nation of Israel, the modern-day Christian church needs the intensity of first-century persecution and tribulation to focus on what is really important and to discard the unessential differences that divide us.

The shared experience of the adversity of the great tribulation is probably the only viable means that God can use to help the Christian church find itself…to capture its destiny and define itself as the expression of the character of Jesus Christ, in the purity of unselfish sacrificial love for each other and for the world.

This is the heartfelt final prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, that His church of believers would become as one in the unity and bond of love like He and the Father are one.

One of the reasons that the Christian church must face-off against the Antichrist during at least some of the tribulation is that this is the final opportunity for Christians to exhibit the Christ-like character trait of unselfish, sacrificial, un-offended love in opposition to nakedly exposed raw hatred.

Unlike the Israelites at the parting of the Red Sea, who were at the beginning of their character growth journey through the desert toward the Promised Land, the end-times Christian will be set-apart and remarkable by the advanced character trait of being able to powerfully love the unsaved and unbelieving last generation of people in the world, without any thought or care for their own personal safety, welfare, or social acceptance.

The genuine Christian in the last days will stand-out for their ability to not be offended by evil, persecution, and tribulation in the face of their calling to preach the gospel message of peace amidst the massive final deceptions of Lucifer through the Antichrist.

One of the remarkable and distinctive characteristics of the divine love of God is that it does not exclude people for any reason (Mt. 9:10-11), but instead reaches out with the transforming power of truth and genuine care to deliver people from their bondage to sin.

“Love the sinner but hate the sin” has been the working motto for genuine Christian service and outreach to a lost world for two thousand years.  This is one of the defining, authenticating attributes of the genuine Christian disciple that cannot be faked or counterfeited in the heat of persecution and tribulation (Acts 14:22; 1 Thes. 1:6-8).

Pure divine love rises above all forms of prejudice, unforgiving resentments, and hatreds, because the invulnerability of selflessness contains nothing of substance that evil can take ahold of…or latch on to.

Uncompromising love in the face of the fierce opposition of persecution will be one of the validating signs of the love of Jesus Christ exhibiting itself in the words, countenance, bearing, confidence, and Holy Spirit light of the end-times tribulation tested Christian, demonstrated horizontally towards people and vertically towards God.

If Jesus Christ can bring His church to the point of being able to demonstrate this high level of pure, unselfish love in contrast to the unjustified, deadly animosity shown toward Christians by Lucifer through the Antichrist, then what does this have to say about mankind’s recovery from its early defeat in the Garden of Eden?

This final head-to-head comparison of the expression of the overcoming divine love of Jesus Christ demonstrated in action through end-times Christian people, contrasted with the nakedly exposed malicious and unwarranted hatred of the Antichrist, puts all of the great past issues into perspective.

John 20:21 reads “…even as the Father has sent me, even so send I you.”  All of the narrative stories of positive faith in the Bible contain an extremely tight set of circumstances.  This is one of the features that authenticates and validates the proactive hand of God working within the lives of His saints.  The tight circumstances of a biblical journey of faith are purposed…by the intelligent design of God…to fall outside of the capacity of human creative invention.

The philosophy of deism says that God indeed created our natural world, but then backed off to a comfortable distance and has no active participation in our ongoing world.  The journeys of faith recorded in the Bible tell us just the opposite.

Through the totally unique and novel aspects of the narrowness of the cross experience (Mt. 7:13-14), God demonstrates that He is intimately active in the lives of people of faith in a way that is unimaginable within worldly conventional thinking.

God-composed journeys of faith reveal that they are singularly divine because the tightly structured series of events mirror the same finely-tuned precision that we discover in the force of gravity or the cosmological constant in our physical universe.

In light of the foregoing discussion of the incredibly tight circumstances surrounding the disposition of the Egyptians and the Israelites at the shoreline of the Red Sea, and the tight series of divinely orchestrated circumstances in Egypt that Moses and the Israelites experienced in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt…the question can reasonably be asked: “Is the timing of a pretribulation rapture tight or wide?”

Is a rapture of the Christian church, placed at the beginning of the tribulation, consistent with the biblical pattern of God nurturing and building faith through incredibly tight circumstances outside of human imagination and control?

Is a pretribulation rapture scenario an aberration…inconsistent with the biblical pattern of God’s precise interaction in our lives?

Does it reveal instead a wishfully optimistic scriptural interpretation of end-times biblical prophecy based upon human intellectual reasoning that misses altogether the spiritual insight that comes through an understanding of the narrowness of a journey of faith…via the cross?

I believe that Christians currently engaged in journeys of faith following Jesus Christ will see in the days ahead that events and circumstances in their lives will tighten like never before, as preparation for the upcoming challenges facing the end-times church.

I believe that mature Christian men and women…having a recent history of purchasing an active and living faith through the intensive training environment of tight and narrow life experiences following Jesus Christ…will be indispensable leaders and examples for at least some portion of time during the tribulation.

When the world starts to come apart, threatening the worldly conventional dreams and aspirations for normal life that are shortly coming to an end, the last remaining group of lost sheep will finally let go of the cares of this world…and respond to the gospel message of hope and salvation amidst even the most daunting of circumstances.

This message will be preached by courageous Joel 2:28-29 Christians who have the personal conviction of having “walked the walk” through their own God-led adventures of faith.

I believe that every major, positive character in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and all of the people of faith during the church age… including Christians in faith-propelled ministries of one sort or another today… have at some time in a personal and honest moment with God asked: “Do you really and actually know what you are doing, God?”

I believe that part of the last “great tribulation” is designed to resoundingly answer that question in a final and unimaginably tight and precise “yes” that will secure our faith, trust, and admiration for God…for the rest of eternity.