The Father of Lies (Jn. 8:44)

The rebellion of Satan 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. 

Satan actually has nothing constructive to offer.  Satan has no positive agenda of his own.  Satan cannot compete against God head-to-head in the arena of righteousness, holiness, and competence. 

If Satan 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 Satan. 

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 Satan carries with it the false presumption that Satan is thereby on an equal footing with God, without first having to establish Satan’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 Satan introduced into the world through his rebellion against God.    

By questioning God’s underlying motives regarding Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit, Satan is presuming to place himself in the undeserved and unjustified high position of criticizing God.  By questioning God’s character through this deceptive temptation, Satan 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, Satan 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 Satan’s attitude and tactics.   

We know from reading the New Testament that Satan 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 Satan 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 Satan 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

“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 adopts the viewpoint of a pan-tribulation, 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 utilized 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 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 Satan, a spiritual being, deceptively hides his true character is within religion (2 Cor. 11:14).  Satan 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), Satan 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. 

Satan 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. 

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 as an isolated event in the twinkling of an eye, then does this highly public sign of the truth-claims of Christianity influence the delicate balance of people’s freedom to remain in skeptical unbelief, regarding the existence of the God of the Bible 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 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 theological framework of dispensationalism, which did not previously exist in mainstream theology before 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 freely 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.

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 after it occurred, 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 involving 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 exclusively Christians, everyone on the planet would quickly know this. 

 If within a moment of time there were absolutely zero 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 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 attempted false spinning of the narrative away from being the rapture 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 relationships 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 alternately 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, 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 with the 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

“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 openly 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 Him, 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 rather simple to understand. 

The only thing that really matters 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 resurrected 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, in order 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 genuine 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 choice, directional purpose, and ultimate meaning.

The Heart of the Debate 3

            For many people adversity is the only thing that brings focus to our shortcomings that leads to seeking heartfelt repentance toward God.  We therefore need God to set-up the precisely targeted conditions on earth whereby the task of salvation is completed and the church becomes the light of the world. 

            We need God’s divine help to finish the job at the end of the ages. 

            The end-times Great Tribulation is not about what we would like or prefer.  It is about God closing-out the human story of redemption in the highest and best way possible according to the extremely tight specifications of the final journey of faith patterned for us in the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible. 

            It is about Immanuel…God with us…in the penultimate resolution in the pursuit of truth designed to benefit the people of God for all eternity. 

            It is the closing chapter of the story beginning with Abraham so long ago, of trusting God and letting go in a set of circumstances that divide truth from error in a way that is incomprehensible to the horizontally conventional world of skeptical unbelief. 

            The example of Paul aptly exhibits this mindset. 

            In Acts 21, Paul is journeying toward Jerusalem for the last time.  Along the way, Holy Spirit inspired Christians forewarn Paul that he will face persecution, imprisonment, and possibly physical harm in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24, 21:10-14). 

            Paul is arrested in the temple, beaten by the populace, rescued by a Roman guard, almost interrogated by scourging, in danger of being “pulled to pieces” in the Sanhedrin, and threatened with death through an ambush of forty men lying in wait, having taken a vow not to eat until they have killed Paul. 

            Yet in Acts 23:11, just before Paul learns of the plot to kill him and he is moved to Caesarea for safety, Jesus appears to Paul in the night and says: “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” 

            Jesus amazingly and counter to all worldly conventional thinking encourages Paul to “be of good cheer” in the midst of deadly opposition and the most unsettling of worldly events. 

            Paul goes on to witness before the Roman governor Felix, and King Agrippa and Bernice in Caesarea.  Paul then appeals to Caesar for a hearing in Rome, survives a shipwreck in route to Rome as a prisoner, writes his remaining four “pastoral” New Testament epistles, and is finally martyred by Nero the Roman emperor in the city of Rome. 

            Is this fearless example of the apostle Paul the true pre-glimpse of the selfless divine love that can go forward in the face of enormous opposition to accomplish the task of salvation for others through the enabling power of the “latter rain” of Holy Ghost evangelical fire?

            Is a fully engaged Christian church on earth during some portion of the Great Tribulation the difficult but privileged calling that will define for all time the true nature and person of Jesus Christ the King of glory? 

            Is our blessed hope of Titus 2:13 the unbreakable assurance of Jesus with us, come what may? 

            God supplies Holy Spirit faith, power, and boldness when we need it (Dan. 3:16-18; Acts 4:8). 

            The world wants to sweep the issues of sin, repentance, and our decision regarding Jesus Christ under the rug.  People want to be distracted from these issues by the everyday concerns of the world.  But the upheaval of the end-times brings these issues to the surface in the same lethally unwelcome way that forced the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the first-century. 

            The cross element patterned for us in the journeys of faith recorded throughout the Bible, deserves our closest examination as we approach an understanding of upcoming end-times biblical prophecy. 

            A commendable approach of including the cross and the resurrection in our interpretation of scripture should become part of the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding we bring to our Christian worldview as end-times events begin to come into clear focus. 

            The cross in the end-times, of God brilliantly displacing our worldly conventional thinking with life-scripts beyond our imagination, is a galactically huge issue. 

            God validating and authenticating His character and faithfulness is best discovered and demonstrated through the creative details of a God-composed adventure of faith. 

            The cross factored into the end-times is as large as any other issue at the close of human redemptive history.  The cross fully applied to our lives creates the most space for God to effectively work out His highest ways.       

            “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mt. 24:44).

            To close out this essay, I quote from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (KJV):

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

11 For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

13 We, having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak,

14 Knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The Heart of the Debate 2

            The end-of-time tribulation will set-up upon the earth an environment that will clarify, with powerful finality, the separation between the limits of our capacity as human beings, and the role that Almighty God must responsibly assume in the physical, ethical, and moral management of the universe. 

            Counterintuitively, the most loving and thoughtful thing that God can do for us is to allow this temporary and disposable world to fall apart at the end of redemptive history, to reveal to us for one last emphatic time the catastrophic result of our thinking that we are gods capable of living independently apart from Him in spiritually autonomous rebellion. 

            At first glance, what therefore may seem like only a surface difference in timing between a pretribulation rapture and the thesis of this book, that the rapture will more likely occur a few years part-way into the tribulation, now separates into two very distinct outcomes. 

            A pretribulation rapture removes the Christian church off the earth and out of any possible participation in the momentous events of the tribulation.  A pretribulation rapture erases any possibility of Immanuel…God with us…in the midst of issues that will define God’s claim to rightful leadership as King and Ruler for the remainder of eternity.  

            But an as-yet un-raptured Christian church on the earth during at least some of Daniel’s final seven-year tribulation, utilizes the unprecedented narrow gate environment imposed upon the entire planet, creating the biblically patterned context for “called, chosen, and faithful” commitment to service for each and every Christian alive on the earth. 

            The unprecedented combination of the total loss of any option for normalcy as a result of worldwide persecution and the start of the judgment plagues, with the selfless fervor of evangelism empowered by the pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh according to Joel 2:28-29…enlists and transforms even initially reluctant Christians into life-and-death service to Jesus Christ that they will be grateful for, for all eternity. 

            The pattern of the cross of Christ contained integrally in the adventures of faith, recorded throughout the Bible, lies at the heart of this debate.

            What makes the end-times tribulation period unique is not the large volume of end-times prophetic information given to us in the Bible, or that our understanding of end-times prophesy becomes clearer by employing a literal interpretation of scripture as often as possible, or that a dispensational framework of interpretation allows for a confident placement of the rapture at the beginning of the tribulation. 

            What makes the end-times tribulation period unique in history is the drastic change in the context of the world environment, introducing judgment plagues, the worldly appealing initial introduction of the Antichrist, unprecedented worldwide persecution of Christians, and a monumental last-ditch outreach of the gospel message of salvation to the people who are still undecided. 

            What drastically changes during the tribulation is an extreme environment of narrowly focused, life-and-death issues and goals, in which every Christian alive on the earth will become instantly transported into the reality of an adventure of faith. 

            When Joel 2:28-29 commences, every Spirit-born, twenty-first century Christian on earth overnight becomes a “called-out” person, no matter who or what they previously were.  When the latter rain of Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:16-21 begins, every Christian on earth will become a called, chosen, and Spirit-anointed vessel for service, similar to what Jeremiah experienced and describes in Jeremiah 20:9.

            An argument can be made that Christianity itself is based upon a violent and irreconcilable difference of opinion in first-century Jerusalem regarding the nature of the messiah.  Christianity is born out of a lethally violent disagreement.  Our salvation is based upon God’s working within a massively destabilizing first-century social upheaval and religious crisis of identity, truth, and right-living. 

            This crisis produced redemption and salvation for countless millions of new-covenant believers down through the twenty centuries leading-up to our present time.  All of the first-century early church participated fully in these events, according to their individual callings, abilities, and Holy Spirit empowerment. 

God has shown us in the Bible that He is able to stand alongside us in the fiery furnace, in the lion’s den, and on the challenging road to evangelizing the Mediterranean world in the first-century.  As Spirit-led Christians, when faced with adversity, we do not fold up our tents and go home. 

Godly men and women in the Bible, and Spirit-led Christians today, do not back down in the face of a challenge. 

            In Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples finally wake-up the sleeping Jesus, and rather pointedly ask Him whether or not He cares if they perish in the storm at sea, Jesus counters by saying “Why are ye so fearful?  How is it that ye have no faith?” 

            Jesus is the Almighty Son of God and Creator of the universe.  Jesus cannot perish in a small boat in peril of a strong storm on a lake.  The Christian church can follow Jesus anywhere, even into the dreaded great tribulation for a few years, if need be. 

            Spirit-born Christians have the Holy Spirit residing inside them.  Nothing on earth can overturn the Christian who is rooted and grounded in faith in Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:7). 

            Luke 21:36 can be applied to any appropriate time during the seven-year tribulation.  The fulfillment of Luke 21:36 does not have to occur before or at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period, in order to be a blessing, a relief, and a hope-filled motivation for continued watchfulness.  

            The Holy Spirit, living within the Christian, is not afraid of the great tribulation.  Jesus Christ securely enthroned in our hearts is not intimidated by Satan or the Antichrist.  The Bible tells us from beginning to end that God has complete mastery over spiritual opposition.  This is an extremely important concept to grasp as we approach the upcoming end-times events.

            As Spirit-born Christians, if we find ourselves someday soon in the midst of Daniel’s end-times tribulation period, this means God pre-destined us for these times, and this also means we have the capacity through the power of the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ to step-up to the challenge at hand. 

            If we find ourselves in the Great Tribulation, Jesus Christ will be there with us. 

            The tribulation can therefore be alternately viewed as the opportunity for the “ordinary” Christian to become a great hero of the faith.  Instead of something fearful to avoid, the Holy Spirit empowered participation for a period of time in the last great harvest of souls, amidst the tribulation, should be viewed as a privilege of inestimable value. 

            To be chosen and called, to “be purified, and made white, and tested” according to Daniel 12:10, is no small thing in the grand expanse of the history of the saints of God. 

            To experience the total abandonment of self-interest and self-preservation, lost through the loving outreach component of the power of the Holy Spirit like Stephen experienced before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15), is to become Christ-like in the penultimate demonstration of character, being the sacrifice of the cross. 

            To overcome the “accuser of our brethren” by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony, and that we loved not our lives unto the death (Rev. 12:10-11), is something that will bring victorious closure to human redemptive history that would endure for an eternity. 

            For Holy Spirit filled and empowered Christians during the tribulation, “ye shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5) does actually come true for human beings, but in the narrowly right way in divine loving self-sacrifice as patterned for us by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and on Resurrection morning. 

            This unexpected outcome is to the eternal chagrin, consternation, and judgment of Satan the archangel who wanted to become god for all of the wrong reasons (Isa. 14:12-17; Rev 12:12). 

            God is so imaginatively creative He can bring the destructive words of the temptation in the Garden of Eden back full-circle upon Lucifer’s own head.  God pouring-out His divine power and grace in demonstration of self-sacrificing Christ-like love through end-times Christians would place an emphatic period at the end of the final chapter in the long story of human redemptive history.

            Human efforts to create a better world are rife with failure and shortcomings.  The narrative stories of faith in the Bible are the only sure examples of success having eternal benefits.  When God joint-ventures with us in an adventure of faith we have the potential for large results on an unimaginable scale. 

            God has to initiate drastically enhanced worldwide circumstances one last time to attempt to break through the stubborn rejection of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. 

The Heart of the Debate

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.”                                                                                      (1 Jn. 3:3)

            As I venture out into my neighborhood and community, the prospects for massive Christian revival in the very near future have not improved much. 

            People are still going about their self-absorbed pursuits of obtaining material wealth and possessions, trying to display the prideful outward appearances of their merit and worthiness through the measuring scale of financial success, and showing little or no openness to their need for God in their lives. 

            People rebuff attempts by Christians to share the gospel message with them, as if this outreach of love was a direct personal insult to their ability to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. 

            Accepting Jesus Christ into their lives means to many people a retreat into character weakness, having to lean upon God’s help “as a crutch.” 

            Without some cosmically drastic negative change in this outward worldly environment, the status quo of difficult evangelical outreach in developed countries would continue on its current slow pace right up to the very edge of the end of time.   

            I believe it will take major acts of God, as described in the biblical end-times prophecies, to create the quantum shift in the world environment that will be required to shake-up people’s current comfort zone to become receptive to God’s final outreach of redemptive love. 

            The current context of life issues must be turned upside-down for people to replace their self-centered pursuits with a serious consideration of the offer of a new eternal life through Jesus Christ. 

            To reach deep into the self-centered group of people currently going about their own way without any regard for God, it will take some drastic shake-up in the world’s social, political, economic, and/or natural environment to get their attention. 

            When this occurs, what are we actually describing?  Are we then talking about the beginning of the actual seven-year tribulation, or are we looking at a series of preliminary warm-up events on a gradual upward incline of chaos and upheaval leading up to the start of the Great Tribulation?      

            We cannot control the upcoming natural disasters and judgment plagues of “biblical proportion” that are described in the Bible to occur in the tribulation period. 

            These Great Tribulation events will topple proud and arrogant people off the pedestals of their false confidence of being gods on the thrones of their destinies. 

            Some people will fall to their knees and cry-out to God to save them amidst the unprecedented chaos.  Others will continue to shake their fists at God in stubborn defiance. 

            The great end-times message is that we are not gods.  We were never created to be our own gods.  We have no business being a part of Satan’s rebellion against God. 

            The basis of Satan’s recruitment of mankind into his rebellion was a lie. 

            This end-times message is not new. 

            What will be new in the end-times is that the world will be coming apart at the seams.  What will be so powerfully new in the last days is the close correlation of this message to repent and step down off our thrones, with the realization of our utter helplessness to affect or control the outward manifestation of catastrophic natural events of a magnitude entirely new to the planet (Mt. 24:21). 

            The end-times message will closely correspond to unfolding world events.  The upheaval of the tribulation period will complement and accentuate the end-times message, that we are not gods and we are not self-sufficient kings. 

The Perilous Times of Timothy

            The perilous times of Timothy present another scriptural inconsistency with a pretribulation rapture scenario. 

            Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:1:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” 

            At the time of this epistle, Timothy is not a tribulation saint as understood in our modern times.  Timothy is not a member of a distinctive group of people who will be left behind after the rapture occurs.  Timothy is a member of the one and only main body of the Christian church in existence, when Paul wrote Timothy this letter. 

            In the first-century, there is no division between Christians in-good-standing and some future, soon-to-be converted group of post-rapture tribulation saints. 

            Within the contemplation of Paul and the early church, there is no conception of something called a post-rapture tribulation saint. 

            Timothy is half Gentile and half Hebrew.  Timothy’s father is a Greek, and his mother is a Jew (Acts 16:1). 

            Yet in this address to Timothy by Paul, who understood better than anyone the subtle nuances between New Testament Gentile and Jew (Gal. 2:11-19), we see not the slightest hint of any dispensational differentiation by Paul in the practical application of this 2 Timothy 3:1 end-times prophesy, regarding this dual nature of Timothy. 

            If the question of a divided application of end-times prophetic scriptures to church-age Gentiles and Messianic Christian Jews, before and after a rapture, was ever to be addressed the Bible, assuming such a question existed, we would think this was an excellent opportunity for Paul to clear up any confusion and establish sound doctrine in applying end-times prophecies to his close friend and protégé Timothy, having inherited the combined dual ancestry of Gentile and Jew.    

            If the rapture occurs in the first-century, then Timothy will be raptured.  If the rapture occurs in Timothy’s lifetime, he will be one of those taken as described in Matthew 24:40-41. 

            Yet Paul addresses this particular end-times prophecy to Timothy, as if Timothy is or is soon to become a tribulation saint. 

            Whatever Paul is referring to as “perilous times,” they directly apply to Timothy.  These perilous times do not leap-frog over Timothy one generation to a future group of first-century people unsaved at that time, who would become converted to Christianity as a result of discovering they were left behind after the rapture. 

            Paul’s prophecy is aimed directly and squarely at Timothy, a born-again, Spirit-filled, first-century Christian. 

            If Timothy is a scripturally viable rapture candidate, then according to Paul’s prophecy here, Timothy is apparently also a scripturally viable candidate to experience perilous end-times.  

            Because these uniquely perilous times did not actually occur during Timothy’s lifetime, this prophecy in its composite form has continued by extension to each and every succeeding generation of Christians down to our present time. 

            Nowhere in scripture that I can find, does it allow us to insert a discontinuous break in the application of this prophecy, merely because it was written so long ago. 

            This warning of Paul to Timothy still applies to us today as if Paul were here now speaking to us in person.      

            If this prophecy referred to a future period of time immediately after Timothy was raptured, yet with a post-rapture first-century world still in-place, then Paul’s sentence does not make much sense. 

            This prophecy is directed toward the one and only full-sized Christian church that was on the earth at the time of Paul, because Paul was writing this warning to Timothy, a younger contemporary of Paul as a future reference and guide toward an upcoming actual time in Timothy’s life. 

            By continuous extension, this as-yet-unfulfilled prophetic warning similarly applies with all of its force to the contemporary Christian church on the earth today.

            For the unbeliever, there is no such thing as a non-perilous time.  Living on the edge of dying in sin, and passing on into an eternity in hell, is always perilous. 

            How can the last days become any more perilous for the unbeliever than normal times? 

            Again, in this 2 Timothy 3:1 verse, Paul says that “perilous times shall come.” 

            If some people say that these perilous times for unbelievers refer to receiving the mark of the beast, then this situates these perilous times described by Paul for Timothy right in the middle of the period of the Antichrist. 

            We cannot have it both ways. 

            Timothy, the first-century church, and Paul’s perilous times all go together. 

            If Timothy is on the scene for the perilous times foretold by Paul, then the times must be perilous for somebody, otherwise they would not in fact be perilous. 

            If Timothy is to be raptured as one of the faithful in his lifetime as anticipated by the early church, yet also experience perilous times, then the rapture slices up these perilous times into two parts. 

            Some portion of Paul’s perilous times, unspecified in length, must occur before Timothy is raptured.  Otherwise, Timothy is not physically present for these perilous times, and Paul is directing his warning to the wrong person. 

            Conversely, if the times are unusually perilous for unbelievers because of the presence on earth of the Antichrist, then Timothy is alive on earth for some portion of this same period of time, because Paul addresses this prophecy to Timothy. 

            If the times are also unusually and noticeably perilous for Christians sharing the gospel message, then what possible change in the outward world environment would create this to the extreme point that Paul would address this issue in a letter to Timothy, other than some singularly calamitous cascade of events leading up to the tribulation, or the actual momentous Great Tribulation period itself?  

            Another reason why I do not believe that the rapture will occur at the beginning of the tribulation period, is that Daniel’s seven-year tribulation is the final period of time for everythingin terms of the old- world system. 

            When the time finally comes that there are only seven years of human earthly history remaining, it would certainly be imperative and incumbent upon God to shake-up the world as described in the book of Revelation.

            The reasons behind this shake-up are two-fold, and they are enormous. 

            The first reason is that God would not want the last generation of unbelievers, with only seven years remaining on the clock, to be mistakenly focused on the non-essentials like what color to paint the kitchen, or whether to buy or lease our next automobile, or which college law school our granddaughter should apply to. 

            These otherwise legitimate life-issues today would be rendered entirely superfluous by virtue of the short end-times period remaining on the earth. 

            The second reason for a major shake-up by God as described in end-times biblical prophecy, is to demonstrate that the Antichrist, posing as the Messiah and savior of the world using fair speech, lofty promises, and intimidating threats, is in fact a worthless counterfeit god-man, an imposter who cannot control the catastrophic natural events or the health-related judgment plagues that will be occurring in the world. 

            Only the real God can supernaturally intervene in our natural world.  The catastrophic magnitude of the events occurring on the planet during the Great Tribulation would be God’s unselfish and loving way of exposing the lie and the emptiness of the high-sounding speech of the Antichrist. 

            This would be God’s final, emphatic, and unambiguous attempt to capture the attention of the last inhabitants on this planet as to the truly fragile nature of our existence and the genuine reality of our dependence on our Creator God. 

            At issue is the fundamental difference between “self-made men and women” and “God-made men and women,” which has been at the center of the debate in God’s outreach throughout human redemptive history. 

            The tribulation period is an environment of imposed dependence upon God for temporary physical and eternal spiritual survival, and forces a decision for or against God upon every inhabitant on the earth. 

            When the time comes that there are only seven years of time remaining, there is no point to God holding back or moderating His final appeal to mankind.

Some Problems with a Pretribulation Timed Rapture

            In my view, one difficulty with the concept of the timing of the rapture occurring at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period is an extension of the Matthew 24:9-10 verses:

            “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” 

            My conception of the tribulation saints (those Christians converted after the rapture), are as a tightly focused group of believers totally dedicated to their last chance at serving Jesus Christ unconditionally, having missed the rapture. 

            This would be the case whether they experience exclusive domain over the last remaining evangelical outreach on earth for all seven, six, five, four, three, or even the final two years during Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period. 

            This would be the case regardless of the makeup of the tribulation saints, as Gentiles and Messianic Jewish Christians

            This hard-core group of tribulation saints does not seem susceptible to large numbers of them being offended as a result of persecution (Mt. 13:21), or betraying other tribulation saints, or hating each other. 

            These prophetic words of Jesus Christ would only seem to apply instead to a large, widely mixed group of born-again Christians who had in their numbers a sizable percentage of nominal, unconverted adherents who could easily fall into becoming offended, betraying real Christians, and living in an attitude of hatred and disappointment as a result of the end-times evil (Mt. 24:7-13). 

            This would more accurately describe the required blend of the genuine Christian church, combined with the apostate church, which we see in the world today, and which would appear transparently inseparable and indistinguishable to the undiscerning secular world before the start of the last day’s persecution and tribulation. 

            This would be more consistent with Matthew 24:10 saying “then many shall be offended,” implying that there is a large enough beginning sample of people for many to be offended, and conversely for many genuine Christians not to be offended, to comprise the whole group. 

            This would also set-up the basis for a clearer understanding of the falling away (2 Thes. 2:3).  

            The tribulation saints by contrast, whether Jew or Gentile, would be almost exactly like the Christians of the first two and one-half centuries in terms of fidelity to Jesus Christ.  They would be entirely new converts to Christ, narrowly focused on their mission, uniformly dedicated, fearless, committed, fiercely loyal to one another, and living with the constant threat of discovery, exposure, and imminent martyrdom. 

            If this is the case, then these Matthew 24:9-10 verses would therefore appear to be inconsistent with the currently popular teaching of an early rapture of the church, prior to the full seven-year tribulation scenario. 

            If these Matthew 24:9-10 verses fall within the time-span of the seven-year tribulation period of great persecution of Christians, and the only new Christians constituted after a pretribulation rapture are this group of tribulation saints, who are not plausible candidates for betraying and hating one another, then something here is clearly amiss. 

            The dispensational approach has newly converted Jews as a main contingent of the post-rapture tribulation saints who evangelize the world. 

            But this formulation is inconsistent with Matthew 24:10, which expressly states that many will be offended and hate one another. 

            This cannot apply to newly converted Jewish-Christian believers, converted by as-yet unknown supernatural revelations of Jesus Christ to Jews worldwide, similar to Joseph in Egypt revealing himself to his brethren. 

            The revelation that Jesus Christ is not just a God of the Gentiles, but is in fact their long-promised Messiah, will engender the most fiercely dedicated fidelity to the gospel message of Christ soaring above any persecution that would cause others to become offended.  

            After a pretribulation rapture of genuine Christians, there would not be a blended mixture of hard-core tribulation saints in close association with nominal adherents in a worshipping fellowship. 

            There would be nothing in common between these two groups after the rapture to bring them together in fellowship. 

            After the rapture, whenever it occurs, the tribulation saints from then-on-after will be a distinct and isolated group notable for their purity, zeal, commitment, and dedication of purpose. 

            The required diverse combination of a large number of genuine Christians mixed with a large number of nominal churchgoers, forMatthew 24:9-10 to occur within the same space of time, will simply not exist after a world-emptying pretribulation rapture taking all Spirit-born Christians off the earth. 

            Therefore, either there is some extremely intense persecution occurring pretribulation for the main Christian church prior to the rapture, causing this dissension and culling-out within the “mixed multitude,” or conversely there is a continuous uninterrupted existence on earth of the combined main body of the Christian church plus the apostate church, extending and overlapping into the tribulation period itself for some period of time. 

            Some large group of people (“many”) identified in these biblical verses must betray and hate other people in the group, for this very specific and unambiguous prophecy to be fulfilled.  

            The persecution that causes this internal dissension, and the large group of people who break-away to become disloyally offended and hateful, must both be in-place at the same time-period.             

            If the hard-core, last-chance group of tribulation saints would probably not be the people to react this way to the life-and-death trials of the end-times, then it is logical to conclude that these verses apply to a time-period when a large mixed group of people in the Christian church and in the apostate church are still together. 

            This then pushes the rapture forward into and beyond the tribulation starting point for some unspecified period of time having this intense persecution and tribulation, which would trigger the events as described in Matthew 24:9-10. 

            If tribulation saints are not plausible candidates for consideration as the uncommitted people who will fall away to betray and hate one another during the end-times persecution, and since Matthew 24:10 specifically says that many shall be offended, then some of the pieces of the pretribulation rapture puzzle are not fitting together here. 

            Toss-in a large group of fiercely loyal, newly converted Jewish Christians into the mix, and the rapture cannot plausibly occur at the beginning of the great tribulation.   

            A mixed mass of people and a period of persecution must be a couplet linked together concurrently on one or the other side of both the rapture and the tribulation. 

            The rapture removes the Christian church, leaving only the future, newly converted, die-hard tribulation saints. 

            Persecution sifts-out and divides the offended from the un-offended. 

            The events of both the rapture and some form of persecution divide the same identical large body of people into two distinct halves…those raptured and those not raptured…and those offended and those not offended. 

            Intense, sifting-out persecution cannot overtake a main Christian church raptured away into heaven, isolated forever from nominal churchgoers on earth. 

            It would therefore appear that a large disparate body of people and an intense period of persecution must be together, either before or after the rapture. 

            This means that either persecution shifts backwards in time, before the church is raptured, affecting both the genuine church and the apostate church together in time as one large group. 

            Or this requires the presence on earth of the genuine church combined with the apostate church as one large group, shifting forward in time into persecution/tribulation. 

            The unique nature of the resiliency, steadfastness, and narrowly committed exclusivity of the group of people called tribulation saints, who are probably not susceptible to “many betraying and hating each other,” is an important key to our understanding of the timing of the rapture. 

            It appears then that the rapture cannot occur in isolation. 

            The rapture cannot occur outside of a close relationship to an intense level of end-times persecution and tribulation, that would be so great as to noticeably split the “church” in two as described in Matthew 24:9-10. 

            After the rapture, after the close of the church age, the only Christians remaining on earth to the end of time are newly converted post-tribulation saints, and they do not fit into the description of potentially offended people and the events of Matthew 24:9-10. 

            After the rapture, tribulation saints are not susceptible to becoming offended by persecution or adversity (Mt. 13:21). 

            To fulfill Matthew 24:9-10, an unprecedented level of intense persecution has to find and overtake the main Christian church for some period of time before the rapture occurs, and one solution to this riddle is for the rapture itself to shift forward in time into the Great Tribulation. 

            If a satisfactory alternate explanation is to move some intense period of persecution into the time-slot immediately preceding the start of the Great Tribulation, then why go to such dispensational premillennial efforts to sustain a pretribulation rapture interpretation? 

            The intensity of the sifting-out split of the genuine and the apostate “church” through some form of worldwide persecution (Mt. 24:9-10) pretribulation, is then made equivalent to the magnitude of the actual Great Tribulation itself. 

            Removing the Christian church from the Great Tribulation through a pretribulation rapture, then loses its meaning, purpose, and appeal because of the need for something equally ominous to split the church into the offended and non-offended according to Matthew 24:9-10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3. 

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